Christianity in Syria: a policy of persecution or deliberate attempts to eliminate it once and for all (part 6) – Milad Korkis

By Milad Korkis Syriac journalist

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had repeatedly threatened with military operations against the Democratic Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria, a fairly stable region in war-torn Syria. The Democratic Autonomous Administration holds wide authority and power in practice on the ground and was co-founded by Syriacs, Kurds, and Arabs.

In October of 2019, Turkey launched “Operation Peace Spring”, a military incursion into Syria in violation of Syrian sovereignty. Turkish armed forces and jihadist groups of the armed opposition allied with it invaded the areas under control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The General Command of the SDF announced the deployment of Christian Syriac forces of the Syriac Military Council fighting under its banner to the Syriac-Assyrian Khabur Valley Region and handed over its protection to the Syriac Military Council. The Syriac Military Council (MFS) suffered many martyrs in battle while repelling the attacks by the Turkish army and jihadist groups on the Khabur Valley and the town of Tal Tamr. MFS fighters did so with the same courage and character as it had done fighting ISIS.

The residents of the 36 Christian Syriac-Assyrian villages remained trapped inside their homes, fearing possible atrocities by the Turkish-backed fighters, including militants and former jihadists indistinguishable from ISIS fighters and ISIS’ terrorist ideology.

As reported by magazine National Interest, where Syriacs and Armenians in northern Syria are divided in their stances towards the SDF, which controls the territory of the Gozarto Region in the Autonomous Administration officially announced in March 2016, they held a position opposing the Turkish invasion and the outbreak of war between Turkey and the PYD/YPG Kurds for fear of a repeat of the different massacres perpetrated against them in the twentieth century.

Although the official Christian institutions in Turkey such as the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Syriac Orthodox Church issued statements in support of Turkish Operation Peace Spring, many Christians in Turkey have declared their opposition to the Peace Spring process understanding that such statements are often issued under pressure from Turkish authorities.

Christians in Syria belong to various churches. Pressures and wars have contributed to several historical divisions splitting the one apostolic church to 9 churches and patriarchates, most of which are of Syriac origin. Today and in daily life, most of them speak Arabic, the language imposed on them by rulers and authorities over the centuries, but use their Syriac language only as the ritual church language.

As for the Syrian Armenians, they use the Armenian language as a ritual language while most Armenians still also speak Armenian as a mother language. In the case of the Syriacs in Syria, a number of them still speak the Syriac-Aramaic language in some towns in the Qalamoun Mountains and the Gozarto Region (Al-Jazira).

To be continued…

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