The article about Assyrians

Members of the small Assyrian militia the “Khabur Guards” have taken up the defence of Assyrian towns in the face of a possible Turkish advance

In northeast Syria, last Assyrians fear Turkish advance

by Delil Souleiman
Agence-France Presse19 November 2019

Since fleeing her hometown in northeastern Syria, Suad Simon prays every day for the safety of her husband, who stayed behind with other fighters to defend their majority-Assyrian village

Assyrian Christians like Simon, who escaped the town’s occupation by the Islamic State group in 2015 and did not choose to emigrate, now anxiously watch the advance of Turkish forces towards their villages in the south of Hasakeh province

Ankara is still trying to gain ground despite two ceasefire agreements reached last month to put an end to its offensive against the Kurdish-dominated region

Simon, 56, fled her village of Tal Kefji that is not far from areas still hit by sporadic fighting and sought refuge with a relative in Tal Tamr to the south

“We women left because we were afraid of the bombings,” said Simon, sitting in the corner of an earthen house where she had lit candles for her husband

,We just want peace,” she said. “I left behind so many memories… my husband, my house, my family and neighbours

Her husband had joined the Khabur Guards, a small Christian militia that took up the defence of more than thirty Assyrian villages in 2015 with the help of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces

Ankara launched a cross-border invasion of the Kurdish-controlled region on October 9 to push back the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the backbone of the SDF, which it deems a “terrorist” group

Long-time enemies’

The operation has seen the Turkish army occupy a strip spanning some 120 kilometres (75 miles) of the border

Around 150 civilians have been killed in the fighting and a further 300,000 displaced, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

Despite two ceasefires, Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies have taken control of dozens of towns, including some Assyrian-majority villages, the Britain-based monitor said

“There are Turkish threats to attack our villages and many are fleeing,” 48-year-old Assyrian Aisho Nissan told AFP in Tal Tamr

,The fate of the region remains uncertain, we are afraid for our children and our families

In Tal Tamr, cars and buses loaded with people and their belongings can be seen heading south, most towards the city of Hasakeh, where hundreds of families fleeing the violence have taken shelter

At the headquarters of the Assyrian militia, spokesman Nabil Warde said the Turks are “our long-time enemies”, referencing the 1915-1918 massacres of Armenians and Assyrian-Chaldeans under the Ottoman Empire

“It’s the second time we have faced an offensive, the first by Daesh and this time by the Turks,” he said, using another name for IS

The fertile region of Khabur was taken in February 2015 by IS, who kidnapped at least 220 Christian Assyrians before later releasing them in exchange for ransom

IS was pushed from its last stronghold in the area by Kurdish-led forces early this year


Approximately 20,000 people lived in the 35 Assyrian villages in Khabur before the IS invasion, but only about 1,000 now remain, said Warde

Of those who left, many have emigrated to the United States, Australia and Canada

Before the start of the war in Syria in 2011, Assyrians made up around 30,000 of the 1.2 million Christians in Syria

In his village of Tal Nasri, 50-year-old Sarkoun Selio, who is one of the few Assyrians still living there, stood in a church destroyed by IS in 2015, accompanied by two militiamen

Only the stone skeleton of the building still stands, while its large iron cross lies in a corner of the courtyard

One of the militiamen picked up a torn page of gospel written in Assyrian

In 2015, we were attacked by the terrorists of Daesh, said Nasri, voicing worry over what more violence will mean for the community

,We fear that the last of our Assyrian people will be pushed into exile

Members of the small Assyrian militia the “Khabur Guards” have taken up the defence of Assyrian towns in the face of a possible Turkish advance

Residents of Tal Tamr fled their homes amid renewed clashes between Turkish-backed opposition fighers and Syrian regime forces in October

The church of the Virgin Mary in the Assyrian village of Tal Nasri was destroyed by the Islamic State group in 2015

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