By Walid Shoebat
Kurdish and Assyrian militia have pressed an offensive against Islamic State in northeast Syria, cutting one of its supply lines from Iraq, as fears mounted for dozens of Christians abducted by ISIS. The new offensive was focused on dislodging the Islamic State from areas some 60 miles further to the east, including Tel Hamis, a town that is one of its strongholds.
The offensive underlines the emergence of the well-organised Syrian Kurdish militia as the main partner for the U.S.-led alliance against Islamic State in Syria while the Christians were ill-armed and without much support from the U.S.-led coalition. Assyrian Institute in Stockholm (Sweden) Dr. Jamil Hanna complained that “arming [Muslim] Kurds was a mistake in the first place and their presence around 35 some Christian villages simply brought ISIS to their area. The U.S.-Coalition instead of arming the Assyrian Christians who are able to defend themselves armed the Kurds”. He added that “the U.S. coalition should not concentrate on arming Kurds while ignoring all the other sects of what makes up the Syrian society”.
Osama Edward who leads the Assyrian Human Rights Network in response to the fate of the abductees, he said, “no one is sure where they are held, we learned from informed sources that they were transferred to the village of Umm Al-Masamir where on the following day they were taken to Shaddadi, an area under the control of ISIS adding that the estimated number of abducted around 300 Christians.
In total, the estimated number of Assyrian Christians in Syria is about thirty thousand of the 1.2 million Christians, most of whom live around the river Khabur villages in Al-Hasakah, and the city of Qamishli (far northeast).
According to the Assyrian Network, ISIS burned churches during with Kurdish and Syrian forces and guards Khabur defenders of the town. Following the fighting in the city, civilians have been displaced by heading to the cities of Al-Hasakah and Qamishli.
ISIS militants stormed around four o’clock Monday morning, and then proceeded to dozens of nearby villages to these villages Alahureten.” He added, “about 800 families left the Al-Hasakah dawn on Monday, the same day as I left about 150 families to Qamishli. The estimated number of displaced people currently about five thousand people.”
After the fierce battles that were witnessed in Tel Tamer in the countryside of the western Al-Hasakah between the People’s Protection Units “YPG” and ISIS, it led to the exodus of most of the town’s residents and the surrounding countryside to the city of Al-Hasakah.
Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Metropolitan of Aleppo for the Melkite Church, has been monitoring the situation in nearby Hassakah, where hundreds of frightened refugees from villages taken over by militants of the Islamic State group this week.
“Ten Christian villages situated on the river between the locality of Taltamer and the city of Hassake, have been … emptied of their population,” Archbishop Jeanbart wrote. “Two churches were destroyed and several others damaged, burned or sacked. Crosses and statues broken and icons thrown down and damaged.”
The archbishop referred to this week’s kidnapping of hundreds of residents of “the Christian villages inhabited by peaceful people of the Assyrian community.” Their fate is still unknown, and some fear they may be executed by the Islamic State group or used as human shields against the airstrikes being carried out on ISIS positions by the US-led coalition. Others believe the Islamic State may use them as bargaining chips.
Christian Odesho, a resident of Tel Nasri village located on the north bank of the river Khabur and adjacent to the town of Tel Tamer, said that clashes began at four o’clock in the morning of last Monday, where “we heard the sound of bullets and we did not know what is happening in the beginning, but then we learned that ISIS attacked Assyrian villages south of the river when the people and units deployed began to protect the village,” pointing out that the village of Tel Nasri north of the river facing his village of Tel Shamiram located south of the river.
Odisho said that at sunrise: “we began to see the tremendous power that was brought by ISIS: armored vehicles and heavy weapons, tanks, when at 6 A.M, loud speakers from ISIS began shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ ‘Allahu Akbar to Jihad’, and then we knew that Tel Shamiram had fallen to ISIS. At the time we gathered the women and children and sent them to the town of Tel Tamer by foot. At the time four from the Christian Syriac Security Office guard fighters from the Council of Khabur river came towards our village and told us that the ran out of ammunition. So they had to pull out of their checkpoint in which 20 of the Khabur guards were positioned.”
Odisho said “hours later clashes began between the People’s Protection Units and the junta Syriac and the Council of the Khabur guards from the northern side of the river, stationed on a number of Tel Nasri Hills, and ISIS on the south side of the village Shamiram after the evacuation, where ISIS brought more reinforcements from Mount Abdul Aziz and Al-Gharra junction. After the fall of a number of mortar shells at Tel Nasri, I collected some belongings from the house and went to the hill and passed to Hasake”.
Villages South Of The Khabur
Bassa Makdessi from Tal Curran located south of the countryside of Tel Tamer said that most of the southern villages were emptied in advance a month ago, and after that ISIS removed all the crosses from churches threatening the population, adding “since that time, I moved in with relatives in Al-Hasakah. My husband travelled between Al-Hasakah and the village, and since the attack I haven’t heard from him including a number of young people who refused to leave the village to protect the village”.
Makdessi said that “the majority of the population in the southern villages who had been displaced before the attack fled to other villages and to Tel Tamer but the residents of the adjacent southern villages, south of the river could not get out because of the flooding of the river and that the Al-Kharita village which had a bridge was too far. Some of the youth were able to swim and others used tractors and boats to flee with their families while the unable remained behind”.
The Fate Of The Captives
Al-Nusra Front (Syria’s branch of al-Qaeda) Samir Taji said that ISIS has dispersed the Assyrian prisoners, including women and children, in areas under its control such as Raqqa, al-Hol, Tel Hamis, and Mount Abdulaziz in Hasakah, in northeastern Syria.
In the meantime, ISIS-linked media activists reported that they have captured 40 Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and 4 fighters of the [Christian] Assyrian forces of Sutoro during clashes near Tel Temir on Wednesday.
ISIS has already slaughtered 15 Christians because they were part of a Christian militia and were defending Christian territories. It is said that one of the Christian fighters was a woman, and it is said that she was beheaded but this has not been confirmed yet.
ISIS’s history when it comes to captives never changed. The males within the age of puberty will be put the death while the women are sold as sex slaves. As far as the refugees, Syrian Catholic Bishop Jacques Bahnan via Vatican Radio said that Turkey is preventing Christians in Al-Hasakah region to escape across the border when on the other hand it allows for jihadis passing through. He said:
“Turkey in the north will allow the passage of ISIS trucks and troops carrying stolen oil from Syria, wheat and cotton, all that can pass through the border but prevents any Christian to transit in its borders”.
This would mean that Christians are stuck between the minor Caliphate of ISIS and the Grand Caliphate to come from Turkey.
History Repeats Itself
The treatment by Antichrist Turkey towards the Christians and what ISIS has done so far seems to repeat an ugly history, not just a history of tyranny that murdered Christians, but a repeated history in which the so-called righteous even enabled it. When Smyrna was set ablaze the turks were destroying everything, and killing literally everyone in Smyrna in 1924.
The U.S-led coalition did not arm the Christians either in Syria and Iraq. They depended heavily on Muslim Kurds and armed them. The Christians in Syria who are ill-equipped militarily are left to defend for themselves and ran out of ammunition. The abandonment of the Christians by the west is nothing new. In Smyrna it was that when the Christian population huddled over the port begging for help from western allies, the ships left the dock leaving the Christians behind since politicians did not want to undermine the delicate peace process with the Ottoman Muslims at the time.
The Italians had come in to pick up their own nationals but they sent out twenty lifeboats and picked up anyone within range without asking who was or was not Italian. “There were so many bodies in the water you couldn’t count. Everybody, … all the big-shots, the Captain, all those people going back and forth to shore, they knew and they reported that the Turks were burning Smyrna . All the crew, we all knew it was the Turks.” None of his testimony is new, but it is noteworthy considering that Italian policy strongly and openly supported the Turks. Russo’s account also confirms the victims’ reports concerning the kindness of Italian ships and corroborated other reports of the intense heat on the waterfront at the height of the fire.
Mustapha Kemal (Ataturk) himself acknowledged the attempted extermination of Armenians conducted in 1915-16 and summarized in chapter 2 as a part of the historical background of events leading to the sack and burning of Smyrna. In an interview with Swiss journalist Emil Hildebrand published in the Los Angeles Examiner of August 1,1926, Kemal referred to political antagonists as “These left-overs from the former Young Turkey [sic] Party, who should have been made to account for the lives of millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse from their homes and massacred.” Paradoxically, while continuing to revere Kemal as founder of the Turkish Republic and their foremost national hero, successive Turkish governments, including the one currently in power, also continue to revere Talaat, the leader of the Young Turk party and architect of the Armenian genocide.
Some excerpts were translated from ARA News
New York Times
Dw.de translated from Arabic