By Mary Elizabeth Margolis

Top Items

United States Responds with Force to Crisis in Syria

Following U.S. missile strikes against a Syrian airfield on Thursday evening, many questions remain about President Trump’s strategy to end the Syrian conflict, which since 2011 has killed hundreds of thousands and forced more than five million to flee their homes as refugees. The U.S. strike was orchestrated in response to a horrific Sarin gas attack perpetrated by the Assad regime that killed more than 70 Syrian civilians. Human Rights First urged the administration to work with the international community to develop a comprehensive strategy to end the conflict in Syria while limiting civilian harm and immediately addressing the gross violations of human rights and the war crimes occurring in Syria. This comprehensive approach must include protection for the millions of refugees who have been created by this violence. To that end, President Trump should rescind his executive order banning refugees, which is currently making its way through the court.

Secretary Tillerson Travels to Russia

On Wednesday Secretary Tillerson is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other Kremlin officials during the first Moscow visit of any senior Trump Administration official. During interviews aired yesterday, Tillerson took a hard line against Russia for supporting the Assad regime and attempting to influence elections in Europe. Tillerson’s visit this week will set the tone for both ongoing U.S.-Russia relations and for the State Department’s approach to dealing with oppressive regimes. Human Rights First sent a letter to Secretary Tillerson ahead of his trip, urging him to publicly and privately raise concerns over recent human rights abuses—including extrajudicial arrests, abuse, and killings of gay men in Chechnya—the crackdown on civil society, and widespread corruption. On Friday the State Department issued a statement condemning the reported acts of violence against gay men and men who are suspected to be gay by Chechen authorities, calling for a full investigation into these crimes.

Egypt’s State of Emergency Declared following Attack

Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi has declared a three-month state of emergency today following deadly attacks in Egypt over the weekend that targeted Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday. This move comes just days after Sisi and President Trump met at the White House in the first state visit for the Egyptian president. Human Rights First urged President Trump to raise human rights concerns and the institutionalized discrimination against Egypt’s Christian minority during the meeting, cautioning that to ignore Egypt’s ongoing violations of human rights would exacerbate social and political polarization and create conditions readily exploited by violent extremists. To address Egypt’s mounting terrorism problem, President Sisi needs a new approach that goes beyond harsh repression and tackles the underlying problems of discrimination and bigotry, while developing a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy rooted in respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Quote of the Week

“We feel strongly that democratically-minded Russians should know that the U.S. supports their aspirations, and as our nation’s top diplomat, you are in a unique position to communicate this message.”

-Letter from Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) to Secretary Tillerson.

We’re watching

The story of Sergey and Sergey, two LGBT activists who fled Kazakhstan, out of fear for their safety.

We’re Reading

Fox News 61 and USA Today write about President Trump’s approach of not raising human rights concerns in meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The New York Daily News reports that Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s counterterrorism advisor, once endorsed a Hungarian militia disbanded for holding racist views.

The New Jersey Herald writes about The Lighthouse, a Jersey City initiative to help immigrant detainees settle once they are released to build new lives in America.

The Washington Blade reports on the recent shocking arrests of more than one hundred gay men in Chechnya. During the arrests, at least three men died.

Around Town

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Johns Hopkins SAIS will hold a panel discussion entitled, “Debating the Merits of the Trump Administration’s New Travel, Immigration and Refugee Ban.” The discussion will feature Danielle Pletka, Senior Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute; George Biddle, Chairman of World Connect; Alex Aleinikoff, Director of the Zolberg Institute of Migration and Mobility at The New School; James Jay Carafano, Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Institute. 11:00 AM, SAIS, Kenney Herter Auditorium, 1740 Massachusetts Ave N.W.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center will hold an event entitled, “Russophobia in America: A Genealogy.” The event will feature Sean Guillory, Host of Sean’s Russia Blog. 11:00 AM, 5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

The Institute of World Politics will hold a lecture entitled, “Russia’s Gambit: Assessing Moscow’s Plans in the First Months of the Trump Administration.” The lecture will feature Nikolas Gvosdev, Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College and Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. 4:00 PM, Institute of World Politics,1521 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a discussion entitled, “Immigration in Europe: The Legal Potential for Integration.” The discussion will feature Dr. Moritz Jesse, Associate Professor for European Law at the University of Leiden. 4:00 PM, Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412, Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Council on Foreign Relations will hold a discussion entitled, “Perspectives on Russia.” The discussion will feature Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center; Alexander Vershbow, Distinguished Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at The Atlantic Council; Rita Hauser, President of the Hauser Foundation. 6:00 PM, Livestreamed at

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Council on Foreign Relations will hold a discussion entitled, “How Did We Get Here?” focusing on lessons to be learned following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The discussion will feature James Goldgeier, Dean of American University; Philip Gordon, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; Marie Mendras, Research Fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research; Michael Mandelbaum, Professor of American Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins SAIS. 8:30 AM, Livestreamed at

The Council on Foreign Relations will hold a discussion on “Russia Today.” The discussion will feature Heidi Crebo-Rediker, Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; Keir Giles, Associate Fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House; Kathryn Stoner, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University; Drew Guff, Managing Director at Siguler Guff & Company LP. 9:45 AM, Livestreamed at

The Council on Foreign Relations will hold a discussion entitled, “Russian Foreign Policy.” The event will feature Jennifer Harris, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; James Nixey, Head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House; Alina Polyakova, Director of Research on Europe and Eurasia at The Atlantic Council. 11:00 AM, Livestreamed at

The Council on Foreign Relations will hold a discussion entitled, “Responding to Russia.” The event will feature Samuel Charap, Senior Political Scientist at RAND Corporation; Thomas Gomart, Director at the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales; Charles Kupchan, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; Kimberly Marten, Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. 1:00 PM, Livestreamed at

The Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center will hold an event entitled, “Re-conceptualizing the Russian Legal Tradition: Imperial Roots and Modern Reality.” The event will feature Jane Burbank, Professor at NYU; Rozaliya Garipova, James Billington Fellow and Scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study; William Pomeranz, Deputy Director of the Kennan Institute. 3:30 PM, 5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.