TEL TAMR, Syria — The residents of the town of Tel Tamr in the Khabur River Valley in North and East Syria continue to suffer from a myriad of threats including Turkish shelling — which has damaged or destroyed many Syriac churches and homes — and the increasing scarcity of water and electricity.
Our correspondent conducted several interviews with the residents of Tel Tamr, one of whom said that, “We are here in Tel Tamr on the lines of military conflict, the sounds of shelling and weapons do not leave us, day and night.”
“Our lives are on the line, the missiles fall near us,” continued the resident. “All this comes while the basic services of life, such as electricity and water, are cut off; we have had to stop working just to collect water.”
“Our people have emigrated,” they said, referring to the Syriac–Assyrian people who inhabit the villages of the Khabur. “Less than half of them remain, most of them old and sick, but they have migrated as a result of all the violations that have occurred to them in their areas, in addition to the constant shelling and lack of a normal life.”
Another resident said, “The shells continue here in Tel Tamr and almost daily in the evening in particular.”
“The population, from all backgrounds, have migrated because of this bombing.” They continued, “Innocent citizens are also dying as a result of attacks on their homes.”
One resident addressed the violations of the Turkey and their proxies. “Our suffering has been going on for two years, especially its occupied countryside,” they said. “There is almost daily bombardment, targeting innocent civilians. Two days ago, a herd of cattle were targeted.”
Everyone our correspondent spoke with wished more were being done by the U.N. and humanitarian organizations to end the Turkish violations.
Attempts by Syriac (Chaldean-Assyrian-Aramean) parties to establish their own administrative canton in the Khabur region have so far been unsuccessful.
In October 2019, Turkey and its proxies in the SNA, a coalition of militias, several of them with extremist ideologies, formed and funded by Turkey, invaded the cities of Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn) and Tel Abyad in North and East Syria, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Since the invasion, dozens of Turkish military bases have been established in those areas. The bases are guarded by the SNA who are equipped with armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Additionally, a large number of Turkish commandos are reportedly stationed in the region.
Demographic change and the Turkification of the area continue, with residents being forced to learn the Turkish language, the names of public facilities being replaced with Turkish ones and the hoisting of the Turkish flag over them.
Other human rights abuses continue as well. Turkish-backed factions continue to burn agricultural crops, kidnap civilians for ransom, extort business and families for large sums of money, and engage in torture, murder, and sexual assault.
In September 2020, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a 25-page report calling on Turkey to put an end to wide-spread war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by its proxy forces, the Syrian National Army (SNA), in the areas under its occupation.
According to the report, there is significant evidence that the Turkish-backed SNA has committed, and continue to commit torture, murder, displacement, rape, and the looting of property.