Recent attacks in north eastern Syria by Turkey have forced Christians from their homes and reinforced the perilous situation facing the country’s believers. Along with other religious minorities, Christians are vulnerable to human rights violations in parts of Syria, including murder and sexual violence. Your prayers and support for Syria and its small population of Christians remain crucial.
A church service in Syria; Christians in the north eastern and north western areas of the country are acutely vulnerable to human rights violations
Syria’s tiny Christian population have been dealt a further blow with more believers forced from their homes due to recent attacks by Turkey.
The town of Tel Tamir – which is in Khabur Valley in north east Syria, where a number of Christians live – was amongst the areas hit by Turkish artillery.
“The Turkish shelling destroyed two schools, a municipal building, a bakery and a power line in the area," Matai Hanna, a spokesman for the Syriac Military Council, told VOA. “This is against international law, which prohibits the targeting of civilian infrastructure,” he said.
The military council is part of a Kurdish alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces that has been supported by the US-led coalition in fighting so-called Islamic State (IS). Turkey, however, regards the group as a terrorist organisation and, in October 2019, started an offensive with the help of Syrian militias to push them back from its border.
Syria – which is number 12 on the World Watch List – once had a sizeable Christian population of around 1.8 million, but fewer than 800,000 remain, according to Open Doors estimates.
The Khabur Valley was the home of a thriving Assyrian community of approximately 15,000 people living in several villages. In 2015, IS destroyed most of these, including 11 churches, causing thousands to flee.
Of the 3,000 Assyrians who once lived in Tel Tamr, there are about 600 left, and that includes Christians who had fled their homes in surrounding villages, a local source told Open Doors.
Since the Turkish incursion in 2019, the area has become another conflict zone with more displacement.
"We call on all parties involved in the conflict in north eastern and north western Syria to urgently stop any human rights violations" Open Doors spokesperson
Rights groups and activists have accused Turkish forces and its proxies of committing war crimes against Kurds and ethnic and religious minorities in north east Syria and its 'demographic engineering programme', involving the resettlement of refugees from other parts of Syria.
“The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic documented significant human rights violations in the area against the civilian population, in particular cases of forced conversion to Islam of Yazidis as well as other violations against Kurds," says an Advocacy spokesperson for Open Doors.
“We call on all parties involved in the conflict in north eastern and north western Syria to urgently stop any human rights violations, such as arbitrary deprivation of liberty, murder, forced displacement, torture, rape and sexual violence, that are especially affecting members of religious minorities in these areas."
These latest attacks are a reminder of how, despite a reduction in hostilities in recent years, Syria remains in a highly precarious situation. This gravely impacts our brothers and sisters in the country who have remained, which is why your support for them through our Hope for the Middle East campaign, now in its sixth year, is powerfully helping bring hope to believers and the whole country – and why it remains as crucial as ever.
A focal point for the campaign is Centres of Hope run by Open Doors partners. There are currently 40 across Syria, providing a whole range of support, including income-generating projects, aid distribution and discipleship. Open Doors partners also work with 90 other churches in Syria and, with your help, this number is increasing – the aim is 12 new churches a year.
Thank you for faithfully standing with your Syrian family in prayer, giving and speaking out. You are making an incredible difference.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.