SYRIA: HTS continues to seize homes of the Christian citizens in Idlib

IDLIB, Syria — On flimsy pretexts, most notably belonging to forces affiliated with the Syrian regime, Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) seized the vacant properties of displaced people in Idlib and the surrounding countryside.

The latest wave of seizures included the homes of civilians claimed by HTS of belonging to pro-regime political parties, harboring loyalist sentiments, or having family members fighting in the ranks of the regime.

The campaign targeted dozens of towns, including Barisha, Kafardrian, and Termanin, and resulted in the theft of about 500 houses.

The HTS campaign of property seizure against civilians with supposed ties to the regime is only a small part of a wider policy of criminal seizures.

HTS continues to seize the homes of Christian citizens in and around Idlib city, Jisr al-Shughour, and the villages of Yacoubiya, Ghassania, Al-Qaniah, and Al-Jadida, as well as the property of other communities in Darkush, Zina, Al-Jamiliah, Sheandrich, Al-Alia, and Haluz.

The properties are often rented out to others and are a source of revenue for HTS.

In February, HTS seized the properties of over 550 Christians in Idlib.

Christian populations in Idlib continue to be terrorized by HTS and other Islamist factions in area.

According to International Christian Concern, “Christian properties are considered as spoils of war, and thus fall under the civilian wing of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.”

The dire situation of Idlib’s Christian population has been under reported by international media outlets. Although many have fled, there still remain Armenian and Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian Christian populations from various denominations, specifically in the area in villages such as al-Yaqoubiya, Al-Qunaya, Ghassaniya, and Al-Jadida.

Most have withdrawn from social life and more or less live in hiding out of fear of being targeted by the extremist groups, such as HTS.

Last year, in al-Yacoubiya the tortured dead body of a 60-year-old retired Syrian-Armenian schoolteacher was found.

The Turkish-backed Syrian National Army treats Christians and other non-Arab, non-Muslim groups much like HTS.

Criminality in areas under Turkish population is rampant, especially against women and girls. Cases of kidnapping, imprisonment, rapesexual trafficking, and murder have become commonplace.

The Turkish invasion of Afrin Region, launched 20 January 2018, saw the mass displacement of the local population — estimated at anywhere between 150,000 and 300,000 people at the time — and widespread criminality in what used to be the safest region in a country ripped apart by civil war.

In mid-August, the SNA kidnapped 14 Kurdish youth from occupied Afrin after they converted to Christianity.

Priest of the Kurdish Church in Beirut Nihad Hassan stated that the armed factions in Afrin have destroyed churches in the region and have converted some them into headquarters.

At the beginning of September, the SNA, with significant Turkish support, constructed a commercial border crossing in Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn) on land belonging to a displaced Armenian man, Ara Kishishian, who fled the Turkish invasion in 2019 along with the vast majority of the city’s inhabitants.