Christians of NE Syria Plead: ‘Don’t Let Turkey Drive Christianity Out’
On Sunday, October 6, U.S. President Trump issued a statement. It gave Turkey the green light to carry out a military invasion into the area controlled by the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (DAA). It appears that this decision was not done in coordination with other International Coalition Partners in the area.
The decision to abandon the DAA, and their forces (SDF) that fought alongside the International Coalition Forces to push back ISIS, is a betrayal. It threatens not only Kurds, but Christians and Arab tribes that fought together with the U.S. This decision will lead to a number of far-reaching affects that will cause further instability in the region.
Handing the Region to Russia
The unilateral withdrawal of USA forces will only benefit Turkey, Iran, Russia and the Assad regime. Fearing brutal extinction similar to what happened in Afrin, the DAA will have no choice but to make a deal with Russia and the Assad regime to keep out the Turks. This means the end of this model of democracy that has worked in Syria and has successfully kept out a radical Islamic ideology.
Giving Iran a Royal Road to Strike Israel
The vacuum created by the USA withdrawal will give Iran the opportunity to strengthen the “Shiite crescent.” That’s the “land bridge” through Syria allowing Iran to meet up with Hizbollah and Lebanon. Currently American troops act as barrier against Iran (and ISIS). When they withdraw, the land east of the Euphrates will most likely be divided up between the Turks/ Islamists in the north and the Assad/Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the south.
In addition, the current locations controlled by Turkey and their Islamist forces will be as dangerous and chaotic as the current areas Turkey maintains some control over. (See Idlib and Afrin.) There will be no peace in these areas.
Handing Christians Over to al Qaeda
When Turkey invades all the major cities housing Christians and Kurds along the border, this invasion will include Turkish troops and their mercenaries. Among these are the al Qaeda-linked “Free Syrian Army.” A massacre will ensue. Probably one on a larger scale than happened in Afrin. Turkey and its Islamist allies cleansed over 200,000 DAA citizens from Afrin in January 2018. There are no Christians left in Afrin.
A Turkish invasion will result in massive flows of refugees as they escape another Turkish genocide. Our experience of Turkey’s ethnic cleansing in Afrin, Syria, after they occupied it should indicate Turkey’s real intentions. The Turks used jihadist groups who adhere to the same ideology as ISIS to commit human rights abuses, steal property, and drive out local communities.
Turkey’s aggression is a clear and present danger to the stability of NE Syria and its peoples. There have not been any cross border attacks from the DAA into Turkey. In contrast, Turkey is constantly shelling NE Syria and the DAA region.
Unleashing ISIS Again
If Turkey invades and attempts to occupy the DAA region, ISIS benefits. The SDF does not have the capacity to divide their forces between guarding ISIS prisoners and sleeper cells, and defending itself against Turkey. The Turkish invasion will permit thousands of the ISIS prisoners and jihadis to escape.
The U.S. decision to give the Turks responsibility for these ISIS prisoners and fighter cells is a disastrous mistake. Turkey’s assistance of ISIS militarily, with supplies, funding and free border access of ISIS militants and especially foreign fighters is well documented.
Many escapees will flee into Iraq in an attempt to join with other members of ISIS there. This will ensure the comeback of ISIS. That will jeopardize the fragile stability in Iraq, along with and Syria. Iran is already mobilizing troops to protect its Shiite interests in Baghdad. This will cause further instability in Iraq, where over 100 civilians died protesting already this past month.
Another Turkish Genocide
We Syriac Christians have a long and bloody history with the Turkish Republic. We remind the international community and public opinion of the Turkish Genocide of our people in 1915, which decimated the Syriac Christian population.
On Wednesday, October 9, Turkey invaded. It is still hitting civilian targets. These include towns such as Qamishli, where Kurds and Christians lived in peace together. Our people report heavy shelling of civilian homes. In the first two hours, two Syriac Christians were killed and many injured. Other targets of Turkish air strikes include the village of Ter Cihan. The Kurds are reporting civilian casualties, including children.
Islamist fighters of al Qaeda, ISIS, and other similar radical groups have joined the Turkish ground offensive. We anticipate massive civilian casualties.
What Trump Must Do
This crisis has continued as the Turks flout the cease-fire they just signed with the U.S. We urge Americans to press the administration to take these emergency steps:
- Implement a no-fly zone (similar to 1991). This will protect civilians living in the region.
- The International Coalition must immediately move its troops to the border between NE Syria and Turkey. Their continued presence in the areas of East of the Euphrates is a guarantee of stability for the region. It would prevent the breakout of another full scale war, which would have catastrophic consequences. Not just for the DAA, but the geopolitical power balance in the whole region. These forces need to stay in place to hold off an ISIS insurgency.
- The International Coalition should consider Christian and Arab forces to patrol these proposed buffer zone areas so as to decrease tensions with the Kurds and keep Turkish forces out.
- The International Coalition should insist that any political settlement requires the withdrawal of Iranian forces and their proxies from all Syria.
- The international community should strongly resist all attempts by Turkey and other regimes to relocate Syrian refugees that are not from the DAA into this region.
U.S. appeasement of Turkey as it occupies territory and commits atrocities will ultimately lead to a significant conflict between the countries of the International Coalition Forces and NATO ally Turkey. It would seriously risk damaging the USA and Turkey’s fragile relationship, and cause greater isolation of Turkey on the world stage.
The Syriac National Council of Syria represents Syrian Christians committed to religious freedom and democracy in Syria and the region.