Syrian churches under fire

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A damaged church is pictured in the besieged area of Homs. File photo

ARA News

Derik, Syria ــ Since the onset of the anti-Assad uprising of March 2011, the Syrian Human Rights Network (SHRN) has documented 69 churches targeted by the various conflicting parties in the country.

The network reported that the Syrian regime’s forces and allied militias targeted 41 churches, while 11 others were turned into military headquarters.  

In its report, released earlier this week, the network said that they documented 69 targeted churches, 41 of which have been attacked by the Syrian regime forces since March 2011.

The report indicated that Islamist groups committed violations against 11 churches, 6 of which were conducted by the Islamic State group (IS/ISIS), and 5 others were attacked by the al-Nusra Front (Syria’s branch of al-Qaeda). Factions of the Syrian armed opposition targeted 4 churches, and two other assaults were reported under anonymous parties. 

Compared to other Syrian provinces, Homs had the lion’s share of attacks on churches, especially by the regime troops, according to the report.  

In the same context, the SHRN documented that at least 11 churches have been converted into military or administrative headquarters, where the pro-regime forces have turned 6 into security bases, while the hardline groups’ share was only three churches, two of which by Islamic State and one by al-Nusra Front. The armed opposition factions turned two churches into military centers.

The SHRN’s report added that the most targeted churches are located in the areas controlled by the opposition, relying on information from pro-regime sources. The SHRN verified the validity of this limited information procured under difficult circumstances while communicating with residents or local activists in those areas.

“Sometimes it was quite a challenge to accurately document the offenses, as the targets (churches) were located at the battles’ sidelines,” the report read. 

Speaking to ARA News, Abdul Ahad Abdi, member of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, said that everyone has suffered from the four-year-long war of Syria. 

“Mosques and churches were damaged, Muslim clerics were barbarically killed in terrorist bombings like Mohammed Saeed Ramadan al-Buti, and the whereabouts of Bishops Paul Yazigi and John Ibrahim, who were kidnapped by unknown groups, is still unknown” he said.

“We are reliving the massacres of Sipho (committed against Armenians in Turkey at the hands of Ottomans in 1915) and today we witnessing the extermination of Assyrian villages in Tel Temir (near Hasakah) and the kidnapping of dozens of civilians at the hands of Islamic State’s gangs,” Abdi told ARA News.

“May peace and security prevail soon in all of Syria, because we are exhausted indeed,” he said. 

Activists accused the Assad regime of portraying the 2011-popular uprising as a sectarian conflict since the very beginning, showing its intension to protect ethnic and religious minorities “while it destroyed the entire society”. 

 

Reporting by: Rizgar Maree

Source: ARA News

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