Congress considers effect of war on Syrian minorities, including Jews

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Congress heard expert testimony on the fate of minorities in Syria, including Jews, during the two-year civil war in that country.

The joint hearing  of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations and Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa addressed the ongoing persecution of religious minority groups in light of the conflict in Syria.

“Before the war, Syria was a fairly pluralistic society, with Alawites, Shias, Ismalis, Yezidis, Druze, Christians, Jews, and Sunnis living in relative peace, side by side,” said subcommittee chairman  Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) at Tuesday’s hearing.

According to a special report released by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in April, Syria contains “a very small Jewish community found in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo,” and “the escalating violence and humanitarian crisis impacts members of all religious communities, including their religious freedom.”

This hearing comes in the wake of President Obama’s decision to send weapons to Syrian rebel forces.