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Jewish Leaders Accuse Syria of Distorting Jews’ Status

Two American Jewish leaders have accused the foreign minister of Syria of “distorting” the situation of the 4,000 Jews remaining in his country.

Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa’s claims, made at the Madrid peace conference Nov. 1, that Syrian Jews enjoy full civil and religious freedom in that country, do not conform to the facts, charged Shoshana Cardin, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Marcos Zalta, president of the Council for the Rescue of Syrian Jews.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, they said that despite Sharaa’s claim that Syrian Jews share equal treatment with all other citizens, in fact, “unlike other Syrians, Jews are under constant surveillance by the secret police.

“They cannot travel out of the country as entire families; some family members must be left behind to insure the return of Jews permitted to go abroad, and a large bond must be posted,” they said.

“Freedom of immigration is forbidden” in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Syria is a signatory, Cardin and Zalta pointed out.

“The recent arrest of several families that sought to emigrate, and the continued imprisonment of the husbands of those families, along with others previously charged with the ‘crime’ of seeking to leave Syria, refutes Minister al-Sharaa’s contention,” they said.

Regarding religious freedom in Syria, Cardin and Zalta observed: “The right to practice religion does not reduce the constant fear with which an individual lives.

“Restricted professional opportunities, denial of jobs, harassment, fear of arbitrary imprisonment — all these have contributed to an atmosphere of fear, foreboding and anxiety among the remnants of Jews living under the oppressive Syrian regime.”

They appealed to Syrian President Hafez Assad to “demonstrate his commitment to Middle East peace” by allowing Syrian Jews to travel freely and unite with their families in the United States and other lands.

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