ASIA/SYRIA - Syrian Catholic Archbishop Joseph Chami: Christians will not participate in the controversial municipal elections in north-east Syria

Tuesday, 4 June 2024

Qamishli (Agenzia Fides) - "The situation is complicated. Christians are not happy. Most of them do not recognize the legitimacy and value of the local elections called for June 11 and will not vote," reports the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Hassakè-Nisibi, Joseph Abdel Jalil Chami, with regard to the election that has been scheduled in northeastern Syria by the so-called Democratic Autonomous Administration of the Region of North and East Syria (DAARNES).
This is a "de facto" autonomous administrative unit that is not recognized by the Syrian government, is dominated by Kurdish forces and is partly supported militarily by the USA. In order to give their "de facto" autonomy form and political substance, local elections have been scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, in 121 municipalities in the seven cantons of the "Autonomous Region". On paper, around 6 million potential voters have been called to the polls. The administration of the Autonomous Region recently adopted a "new social Contract" to clarify its political concept, calling for coexistence and unity among the people of the region. The forces controlling DAARNES are presenting the local elections as an important step in developing the democratic system and strengthening local and regional autonomous administrations.
More than 5,000 candidates are expected to participate in the elections - say sources close to the Autonomous Region - and a total of 43 political parties, some of which identify as Christian (such as the Assyrian Democratic Party). Syrian Catholic Archbishop Joseph Chami, speaking about the situation of Christians in the region, stressed to Fides: "The situation remains difficult. Many men and boys are being enrolled into military service and incorporated into the Kurdish militias. Confiscations and illegal appropriations of private property such as houses and land belonging to Christian owners continue. And essential services such as water and electricity are not guaranteed". In recent days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other Turkish politicians have announced direct interventions in the region if electoral plans that challenge Syria's territorial integrity are pursued. On Friday, May 31, the US Embassy in Damascus also issued a statement stressing that the conditions for "free, transparent, fair and inclusive" elections in northeastern Syria are not currently met and call on the region's leading forces to postpone the holding of the local elections. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 4/6/2024)