President Trump: Please Stop Turkey’s Islamist Dictator from Killing Peaceful Christians and Yazidis in Syria
Last time I visited Syria I had the honor to meet a very brave mother. Let’s call her “Marte.” Two of her sons are soldiers in the Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF is the U.S. ally that liberated Raqqa from ISIS. The homeland the SDF defends is the democratic, religiously free Federation of Northern Syria. There Kurds and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, men and women, enjoy the rights that most Americans take for granted.
A New, Growing Church in Danger
I met Marte in the Church of Kobane. Its congregation is special: Kurds who converted to Christianity. That’s something which earns a death sentence in much of the Middle East. But Christians here are free. One of Marte’s sons is not just a soldier. He’s also the pastor of a new Christian congregation, in the region of Afrin.
But now Afrin is under attack, by NATO member Turkey. As you read this, the Turkish army shells towns in Afrin, killing civilians with howitzers and other artillery. Turkish leader Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened a land invasion. Because the oppressed Kurds of Turkey still resist him, Erdoğan thinks he has the right to attack all Kurds anywhere. That includes those in the peaceful Federation of Northern Syria.
Erdogan is willing to kill or subjugate Kurds, Syriac Christians and all those allied with them in the struggle for freedom in Syria. If his forces march in, they could strangle the growing Church in Syria, whose expansion could transform the Middle East. Also threatened: the hunted Yazidi community, only recently butchered and sex-trafficked by ISIS. Yazidi leaders have begged me to ask America to protect their safety and freedom. They fear yet another genocide at the hands of Turkey, which gave crucial support to ISIS for years.
McMaster: Turkey Sponsors Extremists
The prospect of freedom just next door must unsettle Erdogan. Though he was elected, Erdogan has become a vicious dictator. He’s hell-bent on steamrolling every obstacle to his Islamist agenda. Don’t trust me on this. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster said so. On December 13, McMaster told Voice of America that Turkey now rivaled Qatar as one of the main sources that fund radical Islam in the area. He said: “We’re seeing great involvement by Turkey from everywhere from western Africa to Southeast Asia. We didn’t pay enough attention to how extremist ideologies were being advanced through madrassas and mosques, and so-called charities more broadly.”
Erdogan is willing to kill or subjugate Kurds, Syriac Christians and all those allied with them in the struggle for freedom in Syria. If his forces march in, they could strangle the growing Church in Syria.
Researchers at the Clarion Project confirm this. Turkey is supporting the most extreme forms of extremist Islam in large parts of the world. It even cooperated with ISIS. Now Turkey threatens the very group, the U.S. allied SDF, that finally stopped ISIS. And Turkey threatens freedom and equality in Syria. It threatens the Church.
An Island of Peace, Menaced by Islamists
Afrin is an exposed outpost, almost impossible for Westerners to enter. On the north and the west it faces Turkey, and the south and east by Al Qaida and other Turkish-backed jihadis. Till now Afrin has been an island of peace and stability. Aside from one single battle, Afrin was not involved in the civil war. Its leaders managed to create a safe haven for refugees from all over Syria. This despite scant resources and little aid from outside. As part of the Federation of Northern it implemented legal and religious freedoms, and equality of men and women. The Church (in the wider sense of the word) is growing in Afrin.
President Trump and his staff know what is going on. They know the stakes, and the difficulties. I can’t say it would be easy for the US to intervene. Afrin is outside the U.S. airzone in Syria as agreed with Russia. There are no American forces in Afrin. Obviously Turkey will not allow Americans to enter Afrin through Turkey. There is however still a lot the U.S. can do. It can for example send a token force to Afrin from the east. This would stop the killing of innocents immediately. The last time the U.S. confronted Erdogan, he stopped shelling Syrian Christians. He would again.
What I wonder is whether Marte or her son will be alive the next time I visit Syria. Will his church full of converts be standing, or will it lie a smoking ruin? Will the fresh new chance for freedom and religious pluralism in Syria be strangled by Islamists like Erdogan? The answer lies with America. Will Christians in the U.S. stand up for Marte and her fellow endangered Christians? Your elected leaders need to hear from you.