Category Archives: Christian Assyrians
On January 17 in Stockholm, Assyrians held a demonstration against the Kurdish PYD party and its armed wing the YPG in Syria. It was organized by the Assyrian Federation of Sweden and more than 200 Assyrians braved the freezing cold to join the rally.
The YPG has known ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the U.S. designated a Marxist terrorist group. The Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG) is the military arm of the Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (PYD), the Syrian affiliate of the PKK. Most of the YPG commanders and fighters are Qandil-Kurds, i.e. PKK.
The Obama administration acknowledge the PKK and YPG have links and coordinate with each other in the fight against Islamic State, but they said the U.S. continues to formally shun the PKK while dealing directly with YPG.
The PKK says its affiliates—Syria’s YPG and groups called the PJAK in Iran and the HPG in Iraq—are separate but closely linked. PKK fighters and some analysts say they are one and the same.
“It’s all PKK but different branches,” Ms. Ruken said, clad in fatigues in her encampment atop Sinjar Mountain this spring as a battle with Islamic State fighters raged less than a mile away at the mountain’s base. “Sometimes I’m a PKK, sometimes I’m a PJAK, sometimes I’m a YPG. It doesn’t really matter. They are all members of the PKK.” source
In the early hours of Tuesday, January 12th, members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) conducted a large attack (AINA 2016-01-12) on Assyrian checkpoints that surround Al-Wusta, an Assyrian neighborhood in the center of city of Qamishli, using more than 30 vehicles and hundreds of heavily armed Kurdish fighters against the Assyrian Gozarto Protection Forces. The fighting lasted for at least three hours and ended after the Kurds called upon a Syrian government representative to mediate a cease-fire. One Assyrian was killed and two injured; three Kurds were killed.
Qamishli is located in the Hasaka province, in northeast Syria.
The population of the province of Hasaka is nearly equally divided between Assyrians, Arabs and Kurds. The city of Qamishli was almost entirely Assyrian until the early 1980s and was established by Assyrian survivors of the genocide of 1915 perpetrated by Ottoman Turks against the Christian populations of Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians. At that time many Kurdish clans acted as the henchman of the Ottoman government. It is natural that the recent developments in Qamishli recall those memories of Christians, who do not trust Kurdish expansionism and self-declared autonomy and control over the region.
YPG’s latest attacks on Assyrians came after their earlier attacks on Turkmen, Arabs and other Kurdish groups not willing to collaborate with them. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both recently documented massive human rights violations by the YPG, a Syrian PKK offshoot, including forced evictions and the destruction of homes and property of non-Kurdish populations in regions under its control (AINA 2015-11-10).
Dec 10, 2015: (Voice of the Persecuted) Three car bombs exploded in the Assyrian town of Tel Tamar in the Hassaka province of Syria on Thursday. The blast killed 50-60 people and wounded 100. At least 4 Assyrians were killed. According to the AINA, the attacks were in heavily populated areas, including a marketplace and near a hospital, leading to the massive civilian toll. ISIS has since confirmed its responsibility for the bombs saying they targeted Kurdish bases, using three trucks packed full of explosives as bombs. Earlier in the week it was reported that ISIS had advanced onto hills overlooking the town. Often they will launch bomb attacks against a town to weaken the morale of defending forces and overwhelm the limited medical facilities before fighting begins.
Tel Tamar is one of the 35 Assyrian villages on the Khabur river captured by ISIS in February and took 253 hostages. 120 have been released, 3 executed, but 120 are still being held. ISIS had destroyed all the churches in the villages, looted and razed homes—a majority remain uninhabitable. ISIS had warned released hostages not to return to their villages or they will be killed. The villages are now liberated, but the majority of 3,000 Assyrians who lived there have not returned. Most have fled to Hasaka and Lebanon, others to Germany, Australia and Sweden.
Christians held a combined funeral in Tel Tamar, Syria for the 4 Assyrians who were killed by the triple ISIS suicide bombings. The deceased Assyrians have been identified as George Ballo, Slivo Isaac, Milia Tolo and Hisham Bato.
Please pray for the those who, a few short weeks before Christmas, are intensely grieving. Pray for Christians who remain and targeted by this murderous group. Pray they will find peace while seeking refuge in other countries. Many are being overlooked in the overwhelming refugee crisis. Some have even faced further persecution by Muslims in refugee camps and centers. Pray for peace in the Middle East.
(Agenzia Fides) – On Wednesday, December 9 the jihadists affiliated to the self-styled Islamic State (Daesh) released other 25 Assyrian Christians, who were part of the large group of hostages kidnapped by them on 23 February, when the jihadi militias had unleashed an offensive against the predominantly Christian Assyrian villages scattered along the valley of the river Khabur, in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassake. According to reports from local sources, and re-launched by the Assyrian International News Agengy (Aina), the group of hostages freed includes men, boys and two children under ten years of age, who after their release reached the town of Tel Tamar.
More than 250 Assyrian Christians of the valley of Khabur were taken hostage by jihadists in February. Since then several groups of prisoners have been released. Last time, on November 24, 10 Assyrian Christians from Khabur were released by Daesh. At the moment, there are roughly 130 hostages of that group who still remain in the hands of the jihadists of the Islamic State. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 10/12/2015)
(Agenzia Fides) – Islamic State (IS) jihadists have hacked the website of Our Lady of Mercy Syriac Catholic Church, posting videos of Islamic State terrorists beheading, shooting and burning victims alive and threatening a war against infidels until “Rome” is conquered.
Members are mostly people from Iraq and Syria and it has been involved in providing shelter for Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have fled the violence in the region. The attack has caused shock and bitterness among the faithful of the parish community, who nonetheless responded vigorously to the atrocious intimidation.
“Whatever happens, the church posted on its Facebook page, our churches remain holy and we will always remain faithful praying on our knees”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 09/12/2015)
In all the self-righteous talk we’ve been hearing about Muslim refugees from Syria, who’s talking about the Christians? Over the past several years, no religious group has been more persecuted throughout the Middle East than the Christians. And yet, hardly a peep.
Yes, the Jewish way is not either/or. We’re supposed to be inclusive. So, with all the beautiful, heartfelt sentiment so many American Jews are expressing for Muslim refugees, why are we not including oppressed Christians in our hearts?
For some reason, the notion of “suffering Muslims” seems to resonate more with liberal hearts than “suffering Christians.” Maybe Muslims are seen as more “exotic” or “misunderstood”; maybe it’s the fact that many liberals have contempt for fundamentalist Christians in America, with their anti-abortion and anti-gay positions.
Whatever it is, the poor Christians can’t seem to catch a break. A 2012 Pew study found that “Christians continue to be the world’s most oppressed religious group.”
Even the world’s two most prominent Christians—President Barack Obama and Pope Francis—have hardly said a word about the plight of Christian refugees in Syria.
The current refugee system overwhelmingly favors Muslim refugees. Even though Christians represent more than 10 percent of the Syrian population, of the 2,184 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States so far, only 53 are Christians while 2,098 are Muslims.
This low number is tragic, because Christians living in Muslim lands are in especially dire straits. “ISIS and other extremist movements across the region,” Eliza Griswold wrote in The New York Times last July, “are enslaving, killing and uprooting Christians, with no aid in sight.”
As author and Arab expert Raymond Ibrahim adds, “At the hands of the Islamic State, which supposedly precipitated the migrant crisis, Christians have been repeatedly forced to renounce Christ or die; they have been enslaved and raped; and they have had more than 400 of their churches desecrated and destroyed.”
This horrible situation, Ibrahim writes, was not always the case: “Christians and other religions minorities did not flee from Bashar Assad’s Syria, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or Muamar Gaddafi’s Libya. Their systematic persecution began only after the U.S. interfered in those nations in the name of ‘democracy’ but succeeding in only uncorking the jihadi terrorists that the dictators had long kept suppressed.”
Replacing evils with worse evils — that seems to be the nature of the beast in the Mideast jungle.
In any case, if we believe in the concept of triage—taking care of the most urgent cases first—the West ought to seriously wake up to the plight of the Christians of the Middle East, who have no “Christian country” in the area to escape to.
There are many Arab/Muslim countries who could take in Muslim refugees, but refuse. As reported recently in the Washington Times, Saudi Arabia has over 100,000 empty, air-conditioned tents that could house up to 3 million refugees, but has shut its doors to fellow Muslims in need. I guess oil-rich Arab countries figure the “compassionate West” can handle them.
The irony is that the very persecution of Christians makes it harder to rescue them. As Patrick Goodenough reports on CNSNews.com, the U.S. federal government relies on the United Nations in the refugee application process – and since Syrian Christians are often afraid to register with the U.N., they and other non-Muslims are left out.
This means that refugees who are in most need of rescue are the hardest to reach. But isn’t that the real meaning of compassion — to go the extra mile for those in greatest need? Even if we put aside the charged issue of Muslim terrorists possibly infiltrating the refugees, and just look at basic human need, don’t we owe it to the Christians to pay more attention to their plight?
If the most powerful country on Earth can’t go the extra mile to rescue Christian refugees, who will?
If the most powerful man on Earth can’t stand up for the most oppressed, who will?
Who will speak up for the most persecuted religious group in the world?
Who will start the #IamChristian hashtag?
(AINA) — Over a dozen passengers drowned when a boat carrying refugees across the Aegean Sea to Greece capsized on November 17. Seven of the passengers were Assyrian refugees from Baghdede (Qaraqosh), Iraq. The Assyrians, 4 of them children, were members of two families. They have been identified as:
- Stephen Marzena Marogeh
- Silvana Sami Marogeh (wife)
- Angie Marogeh (Daughter)
- Mark Marogeh (son)
- Samah Sami Marogeh (Silvana’s sister)
- Haneen Salem Saman Shasha (Samah’s daughter)
- Marvin Shasha (Samah’s son)
Baghdede, formerly the largest Assyrian town in Iraq with 50,000 residents, was captured by ISIS last year on August 7, causing all 50,000 Assyrians to flee (AINA 2014-08-07). They have not returned and are living in Ankawa, a suburb of Arbel, and Dohuk (Assyrian Noohadra). Many have left the country and most of the others have expressed a desire to leave.
(Agenzia Fides) – Three of the Assyrian Christians in the valley of Khabur held hostage by jihadists of the Islamic State (Daesh) were subjected to capital punishment by their kidnappers. The video of the execution was released on the jihadi website. In the video, the three Assyrian Christians appear on their knees, dressed in the “usual” orange jumpsuits in a desert area, and are killed with gunshot wounds to the neck from three hooded executioners. Each of the three Assyrian, before being killed, identified themselves by repeating their names and village of origin: Audisho Enwiya and Assur Abraham – from the village of Tel Jazeera – and Basam Michael, from the village of Tel Shamiram.
After their execution, the video ends with three other Assyrians on their knees and in orange jumpsuits in front of the bodies of the three executed. They also reveal their names and village of origin, and one of them added in Arabic, pointing to the bodies of the three Assyrian already killed, “our fate will be the same as these, if you do not follow the correct procedures for our release”.
The execution – warn the creators of the macabre video – took place on the morning of 23 September, the day when Muslims commemorate the “Feast of Sacrifice” (Eid al-Adha).
The three murdered men were part of the group of about 230 Assyrian Christians that the jihadists of Daesh have held hostage since the end of February, when the jihad offensive reached the Christian villages in the valley of the river Khabur. The place of their detention in all probability is still in the al-Shaddadi area, stronghold of Daesh, 60 kilometers from Hassaké. The message conveyed in the video is clear and fierce: the ransom demanded for the release of Christian prisoners still has not been paid, and the executions will continue until the sum requested is paid.
In the following stages of the collective kidnapping, jihadists demanded 100 thousand dollars in exchange for the release of each hostage. Before the answers of those who declared the impossibility of collecting such exorbitant amount of money, negotiations were interrupted. The video with the execution of the three poor Assyrians increases the concern about the fate of Christians in Khabur – including women and children still in the hands of jihadists. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 08/10/2015)
- Pray for those who remain hostage to be freed.
- Pray for their courage and that they will endure.
- Pray for their families who are losing hope.
- Pray all may be comforted.
- Pray for strengthening of faith
- Pray for the lost
Fides has received from the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer the testimony of His Exc. Mgr. Bashar Matti Warda, C.SS.R., Archbishop of Erbil (Iraq) on the terrible situation that the Church lives in this part of world.
Here is the full text sent to Fides:
For the Chaldean Church, and our sister churches of the East, the persecution our community is enduring is doubly painful and severe. We are personally affected by the need, and by the reality that our vibrant church life is dissolving in front of our eyes. The massive immigration that is now occurring is leaving my church much weaker. This is a deeply sorrowful reality. We who are part of the church hierarchy are very often tempted to encourage our parishioners to stay – keep the presence of Christ alive in this special land. But truly I and my brother bishops and priests can do no more than to advise young mothers and fathers to take all the necessary considerations into account and to pray long and hard before taking such a momentous, and perhaps perilous, decision. The Church is unable to offer and guarantee the fundamental security that its members need to thrive. It is no secret that hatred of minorities has intensified in certain quarters over the past few years. It is difficult to understand this hate. We are hated because we persist in wanting to exist as Christians. In other words, we are hated because we persist in demanding a basic human right.
There are then, two things that we, as a church can do: the first is to pray for all refugees around the world and in Iraq. The second is to use the relationships and networks we share in as part of the Church of Christ as a pulpit to raise awareness about the true risk to our survival as a people. I cannot repeat or loudly enough that our well-being, as a historic community, is no longer in our hands. The future will come, in one way or the other, and for us this means waiting to see what sort of aid (military, relief aid) arrives.
So far, more than 5000 families have so far left the country since the summer of 2014. Some have been welcomed into Europe, the States, or Australia, but many of those families are now simply waiting for their number to be called. They are in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, and their future is on indefinite hold.
Through support from benevolent people we have sought during this crisis to ease the needs of our IDP families and provide them with the basic needs for subsistence wherever we have happened to find them. We have made shelters in church gardens and halls, catechism classrooms, public schools, tents, incomplete building structures, and in rented houses where we have had to accommodate some 20-30 individuals per house.
Realizing that the crisis is going to take a long time and as winter was approaching, we took quick steps to lease houses for refugees in different sections of the province of Erbil to accommodate 2000 families and to set up 1700 caravans. Now, all of our Christian IDP’s are in at least a semi-permanent dwelling. This is far from ideal, but certainly an improvement on the original tents and semi-completed buildings which had been the best we could do for many.
We have also opened two medical centers to offer free medical services to the refugee community. The Sacred Heart Sisters from India are running St. Joseph’s clinic, assisted by 12 young doctors who are training as volunteers to offer medical services especially to those suffering from chronic disease. The clinic serves some 2000 patients by providing them with medication at a monthly cost of US$ 42,000.00.
At present we are rehabilitating a building structure to serve as a maternity and child care hospital. We have also opened a trauma response center to respond to the needs of many who have been scarred deeply by the crisis.
Based on our conviction that illiteracy and ignorance are the most dangerous long-term enemy that we face here in the Middle East, and urged by a wish to heal the wounds in the hearts and souls of our faithful, we have been working to help our students pursue their studies.
Archbishop Bashar WARDA CSsR
For photos of this testimony:
http://www.cssrredemptoristi.com/italian/scalanews/arcivescovo-bashar-warda-cssr-parla-delle-sfide-dellimmigrazione-a-erbil-iraq/ (CE) (Agenzia Fides 08/08/2015)
Pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq.