Initial field reports from the Turkish invasion of NE Syria, gathered by Christian groups, indicate a severe impact on civilians which included targeted attacks against Christian communities.
The operation began by shelling Tel Abyad, where the Armenian Christian community reported 16 families directly in the line of fire. Although the families had permanently resided there through the Syrian Civil War, the Turkish operation was deemed too dangerous for their continued presence. Immediate evacuation plans were established for the families, reportedly in coordination with the Armenian government. Two civilians were reportedly killed in Tel Abyad.
The city of Qamishli also reported heavy shelling by Turkish forces. The city is the largest in northeastern Syria, and has a heavy Assyrian and Armenian Christian population. The Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights reported the targeted shelling of houses. Two Syriac Christians, a man and woman, were reportedly killed. Two children were also reportedly killed.
The Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights also reported that one civilian was killed in the village of Mobrouka and two in the village of Mishrafa. In the village of Ayn Issa, a name which translates into Jesus, Turkish shelling of the village was accompanied by social media posts of ISIS attacks in the area. Seven civilians were reportedly killed. ISIS had also launched significant attacks in Raqqa and Homs.
Turkey began its invasion of northern Syria after the sudden announcement by the White House on Sunday which approved of the operation. Many of the civilians residing in the geographical location of the invasion are descendants of those who escaped the 1915 genocide committed by Turkey.
Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs organized a 90,000 mosque wide recitation of morning Islamic prayers which encouraged Turkish soldiers to attack apostates and atheists throughout the invasion.
Matias Perttula, ICC’s Advocacy Director, said, “The current situation in northeastern Syria poses a major threat to the indigenous Christian communities in the region. It is imperative that the United States leads clear, effective, and decisive diplomatic efforts to restore stability in the region. Over 100 people have died in the fighting already, and more victims are expected. The removal of US troops has set in motion a series of events that will very likely bode poorly for Christians and religious minorities in the region.”
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Turkey has routinely made it clear that they do not recognize their actions a century ago as genocide and that they will continue these policies in any location where they gain a geographical foothold. Turkey is not attacking terrorists. They are ethnically and religiously cleansing the Middle East. The United States has given tacit approval for a massacre. It is time that we wake up to Turkish aggression and name it for what is: genocide.”