CSI Urges President Obama to Support Religious Freedom in Syria

Eibner Presents Findings from Syria Visit

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Today, CSI-USA's CEO, Dr. John Eibner urged President Obama to present guarantees of the rights of Syria's religious minorities, and religious freedom and parity for all Syrians as central tenants of his Syria policy. He added that credibility of such guarantees depended on public endorsement by Washington's Islamist region allies, such as Saudi Arabia, and Syria's armed opposition.

Writing to the President following a visit last week to Syria, including the war-torn city of Homs, Eibner warned that failure secure religious freedom will "substantially increase the risk of genocidal consequences for the religious minorities."

Discussions with displaced Christians, Alawites and non-Islamist Muslims confirmed the predominance of intolerant Sunni supremacism within Syria's US-backed anti-Assad opposition. While on the way to Homs, Eibner received news from the historic Christian village of Maaloula that rebel groups, including the Al Qaida-linked El Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army had attacked and driven out its Christian inhabitants, accusing them of being idol-worshippers.

Displaced war victims provided Eibner with accounts of targeted violence committed by rebel groups against religious minorities, especially Alawites and Christians. They include assassinations, ritual beheadings, hostage taking, the desecration of churches and other religious symbols, and the religious cleansing of villages and neighborhoods

Eibner also encountered non-Islamist Sunni Muslims who fled their homes because of the intolerance and criminality of rebel forces. Among the displaced was Anwar Salem, from Ein Tarma, a district affected by last months poison gas attack. He spoke about the gradual radicalization of the rebel forces controlling his neighborhood:

They established Sharia courts. These courts passed the death sentence on anyone whom they believed was associated with the government. One of their fatwas gave permission for mujahadeen soldiers to marry girls as young as 8-years-old. These groups claim the right to confiscate property and girls. All they have to do is enter a dwelling shouting "Allahu Akhbar" and then they feel entitled to occupy the place and steal the contents.

Mr. Salem concluded: "It is the Americans that allowed these terrorists to come and create this havoc." A traumatized displaced Christian grandmother, who sought refuge in a dwelling that is now within sniper range of Islamist rebels garrisoned in the medieval castle at al-Husna, expressed horror at the prospect of a rebel attack under the cover of American missile strikes.

Eibner informed President Obama that his interviews with the displaced confirmed NATO intelligence reports indicating that the radicalization of the predominantly Sunni rebel movements has resulted in 70% of Syrians now preferring the Assad regime to the opposition. He also noted that the views of the displaced are overwhelmingly in harmony with the position of Pope Francis I, who condemned the use of chemical weapons, but who also urged President Obama to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution."

Eibner concluded by commending Congressman Chris Smith's proposal for the United States to ask the UN Security Council, before further American military intervention, to establish a War Crimes Tribunal for Syria with a mandate to investigate atrocities committed by all parties to Syria's civil war, and to prosecute and convict perpetrators.

Dr. Eibner's open letter to President Obama and CSI's Genocide Alert for the Middle East can be seen at www.csi-usa.org.

Contact: Joel Veldkamp at (202) 290-8855

SOURCE Christian Solidarity International (CSI)



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