Saturday, March 7, 2015

Round up: IS raiding Christian villages in Khabur

Map by @le_carabinie (see here for bigger version)

IS takes over Assyrian village Tal al-Jazira by Asrar Chbaro 
by Asrar Chbaro, Al Monitor/An Nahar
This is the Islamic State (IS),” was the answer heard by Father Sirjun Zumaya, pastor of the congregation of the Assyrian Mar Girgus church in Lebanon, when he tried to call his wife’s uncle Wanis in Tal al-Jazira. The village had been attacked by the “birds of darkness” at 5 in the morning on Feb. 23. Since then, the line has been out of service.
Zumaya told An-Nahar the details of the conversation that took place at 1 p.m. on the day of the attack. He said: “When one of the organization’s fighters responded on the phone, I answered, ‘I hope you’re well, I want to speak with the phone’s owner.’ The fighter said he wasn’t there, but I was sure that the number belonged to him, which made me call. I spoke to Wanis in Assyrian, and he responded to me in Arabic in a terrified voice, ‘I am very well, and with the Islamic State.’ These are the words that he said before the Islamic State fighter took the phone back.”
Before he hung up, the IS fighter said that the responsibility of preserving security fell on the inhabitants of the village. In the Islamic religion, which they claim to follow, the preservation of security is a duty. But the IS fighter refused to take responsibility for their security, and replied, “This is none of your business.”
Zumaya’s relative is not the only one who is “out of service.” The inhabitants of the village, which includes around 35 homes, are all out of service. The inhabitants of some of the 12 neighboring villages located on the west bank of the Khabour River to Jabal Abdulaziz were also hit by the attack. They lie along the line that reaches from Tal Tamr to Tal Hormuz. Around 200 people have been taken hostage. According to Zumaya, “The news coming from there is not reassuring. Yesterday, I heard that one of my relatives was killed, and a young woman was raped. What is happening does not bode well. We fear the worst.”
Assyrians in Lebanon stand in solidarity with their kin by Samya Kullab, The Daily Star

by Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian
A few hundred Christian militants are at the vanguard of a fight in far north-eastern Syria to preserve some of the last major Christian pockets within the swath of central Arabia conquered by Islamic State.
For the past week, about 450 militiamen have tried to defend four Assyrian Christian villages among a cluster of 30 ancient settlements in Hassakeh province that had survived more than two millennia of war, invasion and insurrection.
Isis has shelled the area from its outskirts, ransacked its ancient core, and chased men, women and children into exile, capturing at least 300 hostages and killing dozens more. In doing so, the jihadi group has all but fulfilled its pledge to rid the area it controls – from Raqqa in Syria to Mosul in Iraq – of anyone who does not submit to its draconian ways.
The purge has led to the plains of Iraq’s Nineveh province being emptied of its entire Christian population, as well as of Yazidis, Shabaks and Turkmen. Until Isis stormed through the area last August, roughly 80,000 Chaldean Christians had continued to live there even after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 – which saw the number of Iraqi Christians fall by more than 70%.
In Syria though, the upheaval across the border, its own civil war and then the rise of the jihadis had not had the same existential effect on the Assyrians. Until now. Last Monday, an estimated 8,000 Assyians remained in the heartland area near Hassakeh province. That number could now be as low as 2,000 and is falling fast.

The twilight of Middle Eastern Christianity by Hisham Melhem, Al Arabiya

Islamic State seizure of Syria Christians: What we know by BBC (February 26)

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