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Churches burned as ISIS carry out mass kidnapping of Christians in Syria

ISIS militants in Mosul (PA)

Assyrian Christians have expressed frustration with the West after ISIS terrorists captured an estimated 90 people in north-east Syria.

The men, women and children were captured in an assault by the Islamist militia in the villages of Tal Shamiran and Tal Hermiz. A number of Assyrian militia men defending the villages in the region are believed to have been killed.

Abbot Emanuel Youkhana, who works in support of persecuted Christians in the region, told Aid to the Church in Need that “the church and community hall are overloaded with the people and they are now [sending] them to the families in Hassake city.”

Churches in Tal Shamiran and Tal Hermiz were burned down after being captured.

Abbot Youkhana told the Catholic charity: “The fight started Monday early morning, 4am Syrian time, when ISIS opened a 40km-long battle front from Tel Shamiram to Tel Hormizd.

“ISIS were defeated in Kobane and elsewhere, [but] it tried to get gains in other places. ISIS took advantage of [the fact that the] PYD (Democratic Union Kurdish Party) [had] been fighting in other places – mainly the Syrian-Iraqi borders.”

But Abbot Youkhana also said that 15 Assyrians in the village of Qaber Shamait were rescued by Sunni Muslim neighbours.

“Most of the Christian Assyrian families of this side of Khabour River managed to flee to Hassake and Qamishli,” he said.

“There are no clear numbers of the families, but more than 600 families managed to flee. Most of them are in Hasseke and around 200 in Qamishli.”

Members of the Syriac speaking minority are preparing to mark the centenary of the 1915 genocide in April, called Sayfo, or Sword; large numbers of Syriac-speaking Christians were killed along with Armenians and Greeks.

There are 35 Assyrian villages in the Khabour region which were founded following the 1933 Simele massacre in northern Iraq.

John Michael, a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement’s UK branch, said: “For the first time in history, there are no Assyrians left in Mosul, there are no Assyrians left in the Nineveh Plains as they were attacked and forced out of their towns and villages by ISIS in 2014.

“The West is arming and supporting the central government in Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmarga, the Shiite militias but no one is supporting the Assyrian Christians. The Assyrians are totally ignored and being left to their own devices with no means to defend themselves against the evil barbarians of ISIS. Another genocide is unfolding in front of our eyes and the world remains silent to the plight of the innocent Assyrian Christians.

“How much longer will this persecuted minority have to suffer before those in positions of power act to protect them? Or should we all remain silent whilst a massacre unfolds in the ancestral lands of the Assyrian Christians?”

Marden Isaac, an Assyrian writer who works with the Assyrian group A Demand for Action, told the Herald: “The crisis illustrates that in the continuing absence of an international resolution to the Syrian crisis through which all people would have their human and ethnic rights protected, security provisions must be provided to Assyrians/Syriacs in Syria to coordinate their self-defence with other moderate forces combating ISIS. We urgently call for further airstrikes by American and western powers to assist those Assyrian and Kurdish forces currently combating the genocidal Islamic State and seeking to liberate, secure and repopulate seized villages and towns.”