Saturday, August 09, 2014

Syria's Christians Under Threat

The following excerpts are from

The wildfire victories of the Islamic State (IS, formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in northern Iraq and Syria have left the area's minorities under threat.

Torn between fighting back and leaving for good, Assyrians, Syriacs, Armenians, and Kurds, all inhabitants of the area and part of its rich historic legacy, are weighing their ever-diminishing options.

IS policies, inspired by a fanatical version of Islam, were made clear in its conquest of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. There, they destroyed Christian and Shiite places of worship and demanded that all non-Muslims pay the jizya, an ancient poll tax, observe a certain dress code, or convert to Islam.

Exile is another option that the IS has offered to the conquered population. Many escaped before the arrival of the hardened followers of the Al-Qaeda affiliate, which recently declared its leader a caliph and demanded that all Muslims obey him.

Last week, IS forces converged on Al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria, a province dominated by Christians, and claimed it would annex it to its expanding territories.

IS leaders said that they plan to "liberate" the provincial capital of Al-Hasakah from the "hands of the infidels," an epithet which it uses indiscriminately in reference to Muslims and non-Muslims who oppose its brutal methods.

The IS has proved itself to be a tough adversary in battle. Its fighters are toughened by years of fighting in both Iraq and Syria, and have a high morale after their recent successes. Armed with superior weaponry stolen from the arms depots of the Iraqi army, IS fighters are now engaged in skirmishes near Al-Hasakah, testing the city's defences before an assault.

Inside the city, the various communities have come together to defend themselves. Reports from the beleaguered city speak of a growing coalition of Kurds, Christian militia, and regime forces -- groups that have conflicting agendas but are now united by the threat of a common enemy.

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Syria's Christians Under Threat


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