Syrian Americans Call on Drafters of Letter to Vice President Biden to Include Voices of Affected Communities
Some of the policies promoted would see the U.S. engage with brutal regimes and abandon their civilian populations
WASHINGTON D.C., May 15, 2020 – Syrian American organizations are calling on the drafters of a letter to Vice President Joe Biden regarding U.S. foreign policy to include the voices of affected communities. A letter being circulated by Demand Progress and supported by 50 organizations is calling on the presumptive Democratic nominee for president to adopt a less confrontational foreign policy agenda should he win in November.
While we whole-heartedly support the prioritization of diplomacy over militarism, we believe that the letter ignores the realities of people in places such as Syria, downplays the harmful role authoritarian regimes such as Iran play, and strips oppressed locals of agency by categorizing their legitimate struggle for freedom as American-led regime-change conspiracies. This is a misguided and harmful initiative that only plays into the hands of dictators and autocrats abroad.
The letter advocates for engaging with Iran and returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but is silent on what measures or avenues should be taken to curb Iran’s destructive policies that have wrecked the lives of millions of people in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq – not to mention the Iranian people who have been denied basic freedoms by the regime since it came to power in 1979.
Most egregiously, the letter describes the conflicts in Libya and Syria as the product of regime change efforts. The United States only intervened in Syria in 2015 – four years after the start of the revolution – and only to combat ISIS, which was allowed to flourish because of Assad’s violent repression of his people. Had the U.S. engaged in Syria prior to 2013, the flight of millions of refugees to Turkey and Europe, as well as the deaths hundreds of thousands of civilians, could have been prevented.
While we do not presume to speak on behalf of our Libyan brothers and sisters, the international community did not intervene in Libya until former dictator Qaddafi threatened to butcher 50,000 civilians in Benghazi. Calling the tragedies in Syria and Libya regime change efforts is an insult to truth and denies agency to the millions of people who marched of their own accord for a more free and democratic society.
The letter provides meaningless calls to address vexing security challenges through the Security Council. It ignores, however, the fact that committers of massive human rights violations – China and Russia – sit on the Security Council, and in the case of Russia, have obstructed any meaningful measures to protect civilians in places such as Syria.
The letter also fails to list a single Syrian or Libyan organization, yet presumes to speak on behalf of people from those countries. This appropriation of the indigenous voice is antithetical to the proclaimed principles of the progressive movement. We cannot fight for justice at home for immigrants and refugees, yet deny the same rights to oppressed communities abroad.
We urge the signatories to the letter to consider amending it in order to reflect these concerns and we stand ready to work with them in this regard. Refusing to do so is tantamount to intentionally whitewashing the crimes of human rights violators, which only tarnishes their standing among marginalized communities in this country and abroad.
Organizations signing on to this statement include:
Americans for a Free Syria
Free Syria PAC
Kayla’s List PAC
Syria Faith Initiative
Syria Institute for Progress
Syrian American Council
Syrian Christians for Peace
Syrian Emergency Task Force
Syrian Forum USA
Michelle R. Taylor