by Rodi Khalil
Christians in Syria.
In the midst of what is 'Syria', we are witnessing such painful events, where ethnic and religious cleansing on the ground is being carried out, particularly by ISIS armed groups (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups including al Nusra, where these groups conduct the most heinious of crimes and massacres against all non- Sunni Muslims or everyone and anyone who rejects their radical ideology.
Reports confirm that over 200,000 Christian civilians have been displaced from Syrian interior provinces like Homs and Aleppo, where they could not find anyone to protect them in this lawless war. Most of those Christian civilians escaped the Jihadist armed groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. For example, most of Christians of al-Raqqa province fled to the province of Jazira after ISIS took control of al-Raqqa.
Christians make up from 8 to 10 % of the population of Syria, most of them live in provinces like Homs, Jazira, Damascus and Aleppo. They belong to different national identities, like Assyrians who speak the Assyrian language and the Armenians.
Christians tried remain neutral amid the ongoing battles in Syria, even tried to cope with the new armed masters of their areas, but they could not go on with it anymore after the war spread everywhere and Christians were targeted by many armed Jihadi groups, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra . This forced them to have to engage in the Syrian conflict and be a part of it to defend themselves and their existence.
The Christian minority in the canton of Jazira
The Kurdish canton of Jazira, is a group of cities and towns in northeast of Syria, like Qamishlo, Deriki, SereKaniye, Derbassiya, Tell Tamer, Amude, Hassaka, Tell Kochar, TirbSpi and Rumeylan. In addition to many villages in this Kurdish Canton.
Jazira Canton is a part of Rojava, Rojava (or Syria's Kurdistan) is a de facto autonomous region in northern and north-eastern Syria. The autonomous region was declared on November 2013 by a number of Kurdish, Arabic and Assyrian parties and organizations. Syria's Kurdistan region consists of 3 cantons in north and northeast Syria, they are Jazira, Kobane and Afrin.
Christians in Jazira canton have at least 50 villages, in addition to 2 other villages but mixed with Kurds. And they live mostly in the big cities of Qamishlo and Hasaka , and the town of Tell Tamr.
In the city of Qamishlo, they have one neighborhood near the centre of the city, named with " al-Wusta neighborhood ".
In the city of Hasaka, they make up about 20,000 of the total population of the city that has 210,000 residents. They live in 3 neighborhoods, they are Nasrah, Kallasah and also Massaken near the center of the city.
In the town of Tell Tamer, which has total population of 7200 (according to the census of 2004) , Christians make up the majority of the population.
There is no an accurate census for the number of Christians in the Kurdish canton of Jazira, but they make up at least 5 % of the total population .
The status of Christians in Jazira canton is different than their situation in all other areas of Syria, where they enjoy the security more than anywhere else in the middle-east, they are also allowed to raise their own flags and symbols, and practice all of their rights as Christians or Assyrians . They are working with People's Defence Units of YPG, the official army of Rojava, to keep the Jihadists out of their areas.
Christians join the battle in Rojava
After they were targeted in several places in Iraq and Syria, Christians decided to take up arms to defend themselves and their existence. They formed a group of security forces under name of "Sutoro", which means (Protection). And they joined officially to the security forces of Rojava.
The forces of Sutoro have 4 headquarters in Rojava. In the cities of Qamishlo , Hassaka, Deriki and Tirbespiyê . They aim to maintain the security in the Christian neighborhoods and villages alongside the other security forces of Rojava, like Asayish. They work under the umbrella of the ministry of the Interior of Rojava, they also go to frontlines to back up YPG units. Currently, there are a group of Sutoro forces supporting YPG around the town of Tell Hamis, where YPG try to liberate it from ISIS .
Save the civilians in Tell Tamer
The town of Tell Tamer, which is located 40 km north of the city of Hasakah, has a Christian majority of population. It's also worth mentioning that since the armed groups of the Islamic State (ISIS) captured the province of al-Raqqah, many Christian Assyrians from there fled to Tell Tamer and its countryside as refugees.
The town of Tell Tamer was attacked several times by different armed Islamic radical groups, but the YPG army, supported by security forces (Asayish and Sutoro) could repel all the attacks.
The armed groups of ISIS are about 13 kilo meters away of the west of this threatened town, and they may storm it in an unexpected moment! where ISIS has all kinds of heavy weapons, like tanks and heavy artillery, while YPG and the security forces, Sutoro and Asayish, have only light weapons. Same as the situation in Kobane. nevertheless, YPG still repel ISIS' offensives there and not let them close to the town .
If ISIS storm this town, then, thousands of Kurdish and Christian Assyrian civilians are going to be displaced, tortured and beheaded. And they will take the women and girls as sex slaves. Same as they do when they seize control of a new area. The citizens of Tell Tamer are very scared of the unclear future, where ISIS every day and every night threatens them.
The suffering is palpable there. The fear is real. Movement of IDPs is ongoing. The resistance of Kurds and Christians of YPG against ISIS is continuing. But the silence of the world is deafening.
Will the world act to help the defenders of this canton? Or are they only going to act only after a disaster befalls Tell Tamer?