“Now is the time for Christian, Western countries, and for Christian churches and believers worldwide, to protect Christian people in NE Syria from falling victim to brutal war,” is an urgent plea from a Christian group based in northern Syria.
The Syriac Military Council (MFS from their Arabic name) is a small militia that has been fighting alongside Kurdish forces – and until recently the United States. Until the recent US decision to withdraw troops, the MFS, as part of a coalition called Syrian Democratic Forces, took the brunt of the campaign against IS, conquering Racqa the former capital of the IS Caliphate.
“We thank the US and the local coalition for their supporting the fight against IS,” the MFS statement says. We plead with them not to leave abruptly before security and protection is insured (sic) for Syriac Christians, Yazidis, Armenians, Turkmens, Kurds and Arabs of the NE.”
The MFS fear a Turkish invasion. Reports that the Turks may move to invade the border town of Manbij have caused the Kurdish forces, too, seek Syrian government help – a major realignment of forces, according to the Wall Street Journal.
A Turkish takeover of another border town called Afrin last year led to reports of atrocities. “The outcome of the invasion of Afrin makes visible what will happen to us,” the MFS reports. “Churches will be destroyed. Christians and Yazidis, designated ‘infidels’ by Turkey’s mercenaries, will be killed and massacred … Women of all ethnicities, now free, will be raped, enslaved and veiled.”
There are more than 100,000 Syriac Christians living in northeast Syria, according to the MFS.
The conservative Christian Broadcasting Network in the US has carried news of similar pleas by the Syriac Christian political wing.
“All we ask for is to postpone the departure of US Forces until the security of the Syriac-Assyrian Christians and all other peoples has been secured,” Sanharib Barsoum, president of the Syriac Union Party writes in a letter to US Christians.
“We thank President Trump and the US for all help given. By securing our security, this help will have a real long-term result. We ask you urgently as our brothers and sisters not to abandon us. We urge you to stand with us and ask President Trump to allow us just the time to find other reliable partners to secure our long-term security and avoid a Turkish jihadist invasion.”
A report by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggests the Syrian government has started to move troops in between the Turkish border and the Kurds, according to the WSJ.
This may mean a return to the past where the Assad government acted as a protector of minorities in Syria, however imperfectly. In effect, this marks something of a return to the status quo prior to the second Iraq war – with the important change of a stronger Iran.