FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Syrian American Council Salutes Court Ruling on Murdered Journalist
Ruling in favor of Marie Colvin’s family may inspire additional U.S. cases against the Assad regime
WASHINGTON D.C., February 1, 2019 – The Syrian American Council applauds Thursday’s decision by the Washington, D.C. District Court to enter a judgement against the Syrian government for the extrajudicial killing of American journalist Marie Colvin. This decision, filed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act targeting state sponsors of terrorism, will require the regime to pay over $300 million in damages. It marks the first instance in which a U.S. domestic court has held the Assad regime responsible for its war crimes.
“The ruling is a victory for those demanding accountability, not simply for the Assad regime’s crimes against humanity, but in so many cases, crimes against family members and loved ones,” said Suzanne Meriden, executive director of the Syrian American Council. “We hope that this judgement will inspire additional victims of Assad's crimes to speak out.”
Colvin was deliberately assassinated by regime troops in February 2012 while covering the Assad regime's brutal siege on the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs – a dark turning point in which the regime used artillery on populated areas for the first time.
The Syrian American Council salutes the Colvin family for pressing through a personal tragedy to seek justice and is grateful for the efforts of their legal team to bring the case to completion. We invite all Syrian-Americans directly victimized by the regime to reach out so that we can help them forward their cases to the appropriate parties.
Michelle R. Taylor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Caesar Bill Passes House Unanimously
The Syrian American Council celebrates passage of Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act in the House of Representatives and advocates its passing in the Senate
WASHINGTON D.C., January 23, 2019 – The Syrian American Council applauds the passage of the H.R. 31, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, on Tuesday by the House of Representatives, and supports the calls made by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) for the Senate to now pass the bill.
The legislation, which would hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for his war crimes while limiting his ability to access funds from allies Russia and Iran, has been in the works for nearly three years with deep bipartisan support. Having passed this latest hurdle, the bill is expected to be considered by the Senate after the end of the partial U.S. government shutdown.
“After three years of advocating for this legislation, we are cautiously optimistic to see the Caesar bill taken up as one of the first measures by the new Congress,” said Suzanne Meriden, executive director of the Syrian American Council. “We are especially grateful to Congressmen Engel and McCaul for their leadership in passing this unique and important bipartisan legislation. The Syrian American Council and greater Syrian-American community will continue to work to ensure Caesar passes the Senate as well.”
The passage of H.R. 31 comes on the heels of the European Union imposing sanctions on 11 individuals and five companies for providing financial and other military assistance to the Assad regime.
“We are seeing a theme this week of sanctions imposed on the Assad regime and its allies and supporters, demonstrating that the international community is still largely unwilling to accept Assad as part of any legitimate solution in Syria,” added Meriden.
Michelle R. Taylor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Syrian American Council Urges Trump to Reconsider Withdrawal from Syria
WASHINGTON D.C., December 19, 2018 – The Syrian American Council urges President Trump to reconsider his decision to rapidly withdraw troops from Syria. A withdrawal of this type and at this time would constitute a victory for Iran, ISIS, and the Assad regime and its Russian ally.
Experts have iterated repeatedly that a vacuum in northern Syria leaves room for terrorist, extremist, and authoritarian influence, and that ISIS has not been defeated. ISIS’s influence extends beyond territorial control and includes a wide network of sleeper cells that have shown signs of expansion in recent months. A rapid withdrawal may also push the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main U.S. partner in Syria, to ally with the Assad regime and Iran, contributing to greater Iranian influence and detrimental effects in the region.
President Trump has previously denounced his predecessor for an overly hands-off approach to the Syrian war and for his precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, both of which helped contribute to the rise of ISIS and supercharged Iranian regional influence. We urge the President not to repeat the same mistake.
Michelle R. Taylor
Statement on Saturday’s Chemical Attacks in Douma
For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON D.C., April 9, 2018 – On Saturday, the regime of Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad attacked the people of Douma in Eastern Ghouta with chemical weapons, described by direct observers as "the worst chemical attack yet."
Several reports from people inside Douma claimed that the chemicals were a mix of chlorine and sarin. Saturday's atrocities come just one year after the sarin chemical attack in Khan Sheikoun, which prompted swift and decisive action by President Trump to strike the airport believed to be the base for the plane that carried out the attack.
Horrifying pictures and videos from Saturday are now surfacing, showing mostly children and women who were hiding in shelters, gasping for air, foaming at the mouth, and dying slowly and painfully. The statistics on casualties continue to rapidly climb, while terror engulfs innocent civilians in the Douma area, and across all of Syria, as they brace for more attacks from the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies. Saturday's use of chemical weapons is the latest tactic by the Assad regime to bring the people of Douma to their knees after years of siege, starvation, and bombardment, This follows a policy of forced displacement and demographic change that the regime has employed in multiple areas since the beginning of the war, including in Homs and Aleppo. Despite condemnations by the international community, no assertive action has been taken to stop these atrocities once and for all.
The Syrian American Council urges President Trump to follow through on his tweets Sunday morning, and to take immediate action against this tyrannical regime. We call on the president to work with Congress and the international community to enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention and to immediately stop the slaughter of civilians in Syria by grounding Assad's air force.
Michelle R. Taylor
Amidst Eastern Ghouta Extermination Campaign, Syrian-American Organizations Call for #SaveGhouta Week of Action
Washington, DC (January 31, 2018)- Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is extending, but not redesignating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syria. While we, as Syrian American organizations, are reassured by the extension which will allow Syrians with current-TPS status to remain inside the country, we are deeply disturbed by the failure of the Administration to redesignate TPS--a decision that will prevent nearly 2,000 non-TPS-holders already living in the United States from applying for TPS. This decision constitutes a break with practice, which has consistently seen both extension and redesignation every 18 months for TPS for Syria since the initial designation was made in March 2012. With the war in Syria ongoing, mass atrocities continuing, and humanitarian travesty overtaking the region, we, as Syrian American organizations, are extremely concerned that any premature repatriation of Syrians could be tantamount to a death sentence.
Syrian TPS holders include creative entrepreneurs, dedicated teachers, and hardworking employees who contribute to our country’s economy, strengthen our national fabric, and reflect positively on our diverse heritage. Syrian TPS holders are already present in the United States, are vetted regularly, and are subjected to extensive background checks. About 5,800 Syrian current-TPS holders are eligible for extension of TPS. About 2,000 Syrians living in the United States would be eligible to apply for TPS in the case of redesignation.
Since the war first began in Syria, more than 500,000 Syrians have been killed, at least 5.5 million Syrians have registered as refugees, and at least 6.1 million Syrians have been internally displaced from their homes. The State Department’s January 2018 travel advisory confirms: “No part of Syria is safe from violence.” Syrians forced to return prematurely to their country face a number of dire scenarios: becoming the target of barrel bombs, airstrikes, sieges, or chemical weapons attacks; being subjected to arbitrary arrest or forced conscription by Syrian authorities; or being unable to access the most basic necessities, including food, water, and medical care.
Until the disastrous human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria stabilizes; the ongoing war comes to a clear end; and the extraordinary circumstances at hand subside, the Syrian American organizations continue to call on this Administration to support policies like TPS which allow those fleeing unspeakable crimes and haunting scenes of war to temporarily seek refuge in a country that has built its national fabric from diversity, openness, and tolerance.
The Syrian American organizations referenced in this statement include:
Americans for a Free Syria
American Relief Coalition for Syria
Hope Foundation for Relief and Development
Mercy Without Limits
Rahma Relief Foundation
Shaam Relief Foundation
Swasia Charity Foundation
Syria Relief and Development
Syrian American Engineers Association
Syrian American Medical Society
Syrian Community Network
Syrian Expatriates Organization
Syrian Forum USA
Coalition for a Democratic Syria
American Syriac Union
Association of Free Syrians
Syrian American Council
Syrian Christians for Peace
Syrian Emergency Task Force
At the end of January 2018, the Department of Homeland Security is set to make a decision on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syria, a program that allows 6,900 Syrians to live and work legally in the United States.
Ahead of this decision, the Coalition for a Democratic Syria (of which the Syrian American Council is a member), the American Relief Coalition for Syria, and Americans for a Free Syria have been joined by over 50 human rights, immigration, advocacy, and faith groups and organizations in a coalition letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State calling for the extension and redesignation of TPS for Syria.
The letter explains: "The brutal war crimes and crimes against humanity, widespread arrests and repression, and starvation and medical deteriorations that Syrians inside the country are subjected to on a regular basis make the return of TPS beneficiaries untenable and tantamount to a death sentence."
A full text of the letter is available here.
This coalition letter occurs on the heels of a number of initiatives taken on by the Syrian American organizations and their allies on TPS, including but not limited to the submission of a legal petition to the Department of Homeland Security, congressional advocacy on TPS, grassroots education and awareness, and community and legal support for TPS-holders.
On Friday, January 19, 2018, a second letter calling for the extension and redesignation of TPS will be submitted to the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department by humanitarian organizations with operations on the ground.
The Syrian American Council condemns yesterday's deadly attack on civilians by the Syrian-Russian alliance that left 100 civilians dead and injured in the Atarib suburb of Aleppo. Two days ago, the State Department released a media note claiming that President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin “agreed there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria” during a meeting. Putin clearly only believes in a military solution for Syria and is implementing it on the ground everyday. Yesterday's massacre, which was the worst in the province since the Aleppo City Massacre of 2016, is proof that Putin is not a reliable or constructive partner in Syria. Putin has made clear that his government's aim is to keep Assad in power at the expense of Syria's civilians. Putin continues to protect, embolden, enable and support Assad's mass atrocities and crimes against humanity on the battlefield and at the UN Security Council. As such, the Syrian American Council calls on the Trump Administration to work with members of the Friends of Syria group of countries to protect civilians in Syria, end all sieges, release detainees, increase efforts to support a political transition away from Assad, and refer the Syria file to the ICC.
The Coalition for a Democratic Syria (CDS) decries the consideration of Mohammad Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement in the international nuclear negotiations.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has listed Foreign Minister Zarif and Federica Mogherini on its shortlist of nominees for this year’s Peace Prize for their involvement in negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was intended to limit Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon.