In her second visit to Qamishli, the USCIRF commissioner Nadine Maenza held meetings with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officials, along with representatives of NGOs and political parties.
In an interview with the Hawar News Agency, Maenza answered questions on the US perspective of the AANES.
Maenza shared her view that when she first visited northeast Syria in November 2019 she was astounded by the conditions for religious freedom and gender equality, and how this democratic project had built such strong governance.
“We went back to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and we made bold recommendations in April last year, including the request that the US asks Turkey to withdraw from North East Syria because of the conditions Turkey created when it invaded and occupied the area. We also recommended the US give political recognition to the AANES as a legitimate local government, to expand engagement with the AANES and also to lift sanctions from the areas governed by the AANES,” Maenza said.
‘The US cares for the AANES’
Maenza stressed that over the last year in particular they have witnessed so much growth and support for the AANES in the US. “One of the key recommendations that the US Commission on International Religious Freedom made was that the US government should expand engagement with the AANES. The US government ignored the government here in their previous visits. We are hoping to see closer ties and the strengthening of our relationship with the AANES,” Maenza said.
China, Russia and Turkey do not consider the suggestions of the USCIRF, according to Maenza. “They have the initiative for the solution in Syria, but they do not want to see an autonomous administration on their borders as they see this as a threat to their national security,” she said.
However, the US cares for the AANES, Maenza further underlined, because it is “built on the principles of freedom, democracy and gender equality as well the equality and co-existence of ethnic and religious communities living in the region. The US cares for these principles and therefore supports the AANES project.”
‘We should support the AANES’
Maenza said that when the AANES was first launched, there was a sense in the US that is was a temporary government. “The State Department was watching what happened and thought it would be a temporary project, which in some ways allowed the project to develop naturally and organically without the interference of any other state actors. When the US saw that, they began to give more support to the project,” she said.
“I have been trying to remind people that the AANES is not a project that defends separatism, but is a project that embodies the political solution for the Syrian crisis as a regional government,” Maenza said, before concluding, “We do not have to wait for a political solution. We should support this project right now for the solution to be achieved. Equality of beliefs and religions in the region is a win-win situation for everyone.”