The United States deplores continued threats against Christians and other minorities in Syria, who are increasingly targeted by extremists. Last week in Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) announced it will force Syrian Christians to either convert to Islam, remain Christian and pay a tax, or face death. These outrageous conditions violate universal human rights. ISIL has demonstrated time and again its disregard for Syrian lives, and it continues to commit atrocities against the Syrian people. Although ISIL claims it is fighting the regime, its oppression of and senseless violence against Syrians, including the moderate Syrian opposition, demonstrates that it is fighting for nothing except the imposition of its own brand of tyranny.
While the Assad regime attempts to paint itself as a protector of Syria’s minorities, it has brutally cracked down on dissent from all segments of society. The regime has arrested Christian worshippers, human rights advocates, and peaceful dissidents like Akram al Bunni and President of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, Gabriel Moushe Gourieh; raided and confiscated church property; shelled Christian communities like Yabrud; and bombed dozens of churches, some simply for being located in opposition-held areas.
The Syrian people have a long history of tolerance and co-existence, but both the regime and ISIL are fueling sectarian strife to justify their brutality. We strongly condemn these abuses and urge all parties to protect and respect the rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or religion.