Center for Research on Globalization, Canada
July 30 2014

Wiping Out the Christians of Syria and Iraq to Remap the Middle East:
Prerequisite to a Clash of Civilizations?


By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Historically, the Levant is the birthplace of Christianity and the
oldest Christian communities have lived in it and the entire Fertile
Crescent since the start of Christian history. Early Christian called
themselves followers or people of «the Way» before they adopted the
term Christian; in Arabic their antiquated name would be «Ahl
Al-Deen». [1] Traces of this original name are also available in the
New Testament of the Bible and can be read in John 14:5-7, Acts 9:1-2,
Acts 24:4 and 14. From the Fertile Crescent these Christian
communities spread across Africa, Asia, and Europe. Since that time
the ancient communities of Christians, many of which still use the
Syriac dialects of Aramaic in their churches, have been an integral
and important part of the social fabrics of the pluralistic societies
of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. Nevertheless,
the Christians of the Levant and Iraq are now in the crosshairs.

Deceit and mischief has been at play. It is no coincidence that
Egyptian Christians were attacked at the same time as the South Sudan
Referendum, which was supposed to signal a split between the Muslims
in Khartoum and the Christians and animists in Juba. Nor is it an
accident that Iraq's Christian, one of the oldest Christian
communities in the world, began to face a modern exodus, leaving their
homes and ancestral homeland in Iraq in 2003. Mysterious groups
targeted both them and Palestinian refugees¦

Coinciding with the exodus of Iraqi Christians, which occurred under
the watchful eyes of US and British military forces, the neighborhoods
in Baghdad became sectarian as Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims were
forced by violence and death squads to form sectarian enclaves. This
is all tied to a US and Israeli project of redrawing the map.

The Christian communities of the Levant and Iraq have long distrusted
the US government for its support of Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia, and fanatical militants with anti-Christian leanings.
Lebanon's Christians have also been weary of US support for Israeli
expansion and ideas about resettling Palestinians into Lebanon. There
is also a widely held belief that the US and Israel have been involved
in a policy to remove or «purge» the Christians from Iraq and the
Levant in some type of Zionist-linked resettlement plan. Since the
US-supported anti-government fighters started targeting Christian
Syrians, there has been renewed talk about a Christian exodus in the
Middle East centering on Washington's war on Syria.

Silencing the Ancient Church Bells of Sham and Shinar

Christian Arabs and both the Assyrian and Armenian ethnic communities,
which are overwhelming composed of Christian, inside Lebanon and Syria
have been in the crosshairs. From Homs and Maaloula to Kessab, Syria's
Christians have been under siege. Various ecclesiastic councils or
synods have expressed concerns as have Ecumenical Patriarch of
Constantinople Bartholomew I, the Vatican or Holy See, Russian
Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow Cyril (Kirill) I, Armenian Apostolic
Catholicos Aram I, the Maronite Greek Catholic Patriarchate in
Lebanon, Jerusalemite Greek Orthodox Archbishop Theodosios (Attallah)
Hanna of Sebastia, the Anglican See of Canterbury, Armenian President
Serzh Sargsyan, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, the Free Patriotic
Movement of Lebanon's Michel Aoun, the World Council of Churches, and
various interfaith bodies. Even US celebrities Cherilyn Sarkisian
(Cher) and Kimberly Kardashian joined the chorus and voiced their
concerns about Syria's Christians after the Turkish government
perfidiously helped Al-Nusra overrun the predominately Armenian town
of Kessab in Lattakia Governate on March 24, 2014. [2]

Inside Syria, Maronite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Damascus Samir
Nassar, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham, Antiochian
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV, and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch
Ignatius Zakka I Iwas have all condemned the violence. The leaders of
Syria's other faiths, Druze Sheikh Al-Aql Hamoud Hennawi, Sunni Grand
Mufti Ahmed Badreddin, and Ashari Imam Mohammed Said Ramadan, have
joined the Christian leaders in their calls for peace and
condemnations of Washington's war on Syria. These leaders have risked
their lives and the lives of their loved ones by taking these
positions. Sheikh Ramadan, who was also an ethnic Kurd, was murdered
while he was teaching in a mosque for his backing of the Syrian
government on March 21, 2013. Patriarch Ignatius IV had his brother
kidnapped in Aleppo whereas Grand Mufti Hassoun had his twenty-two
year-old son murdered on his way to university in Idlib. Despite the
threats, all these figures have spoken against the insurgency as a
cancerous threat to coexistence in Syrian society and the broader
region. Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham has very vocally said that
his country is being attacked by bandits and terrorists under the
fiction of a revolution that seek to destroy the Christians and all
Syria. [3]

The Christian communities of Syria, which constitute at least 10% of
the Syrian population, have been systematically targeted; their
churches have been attached and desecrated; their priests, monks, and
nuns murdered; and generally discriminated against by the
anti-government forces that the US, UK, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia,
Qatar, Turkey, and their allies support. The objectives of
establishing this exodus are reflected by the anti-government chants:
«Alawites to the ground and Christians to Lebanon!» What this chant
means is that Syria is no longer a place where either Alawis or
Christians can live.

America's Foot Soldiers and the Rape of Christians in Syria and Iraq

Fides News Agency, the official news agency of the Vatican and the
Roman Catholic Church, has reported that the so-called religious
leaders of the anti-government fighters declared it lawful for the
anti-government fighters to rape «any non-Sunni Syrian woman» that
they desired; the declarations of these corrupt pastors have been used
to justify the rape, humiliation, torture, and murder of women and
girls in towns and territory captured by groups like the so-called
Free Syrian Army, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and the so-called Islamic State of
Iraq and the Levant/Al-Dawlah Al-Islamiyah fi Al-Iraq wa Al-Sham

Here is the account given to the Fides News Agency by two priests
about what was done to one fifteen year-old Syrian Christian girl in
Homs Governate after the anti-government fighters took control of it:

The commander of the battalion «Jabhat al-Nusra» in Qusair took
Mariam, married and raped her. Then he repudiated her. The next day
the young woman was forced to marry another Islamic militant. He also
raped her and then repudiated her. The same trend was repeated for 15
days, and Mariam was raped by 15 different men. This psychologically
destabilized her and made her insane. Mariam, became mentally unstable
and was eventually killed. These atrocities are not told by any
«International Commission» say to Fides two Greek-Catholic priests,
Fr. Issam and Fr. Elias who have just returned to town. [5]

These same US-supported multinational insurgent groups have begun to
do this to Iraqi Christians too. «On June 12, [2014,] only two day
after capturing Mosul and other territories in Iraq, the Islamic State
of Iraq and Syria issued a decree ordering the people to send their
unmarried women to `jihad by sex'» and made a decree ordering that
unmarried women sexually be offered to their fighters for fornication.
[6] The following account, which was confirmed by the Iraqi High
Commission for Human Rights and reported by the Assyrian International
News Agency, deals with Mosul after its takeover by the
insurrectionary forces entering Iraq from Syria on June 25, 2014:

A Christian father who watched his wife and daughter get brutally
raped by members of the militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and
Syria (ISIS) because he couldn't pay them a poll tax in Mosul, Iraq,
killed himself under the weight of the trauma this past weekend. [7]

The molestation and rape of Christian women and girls as sex objects
has not been limited to Christians alone. Syrian women and girls,
regardless of their faiths, that have been captured by the
anti-government forces are being raped and molested. Muslims,
Christians, and Druze are all equally at risk. These perverted acts
are being encouraged by corrupt clerics issuing legal opinions and
decrees (fatwas) that support rape and womanizing.

These twisted legal opinions and decrees being issued include calls
for foreign women to become concubines to the anti-government fighters
in Syria in what is disgracefully called a «sexual holy struggle»
(jihad al-nikah). The Tunisian government was even prompted to react
in mid-2013 to these calls for sexual offering, because they were
exploiting young Tunisian girls. [8] Tunisian Minister of Religious
Affairs Noureddine Al-Khadimi condemned the corrupt and ignorant
clerics and individuals behind the calls, insisting that they had
nothing to do with Muslim teachings:

The minister's statements came after the spread of an anonymous
«sexual jihad» fatwa on the Internet calling on young women to support
opposition fighters in Syria by providing sexual services. According
to media reports and mujahideen who returned to Tunisia after
participating in jihad in Syria, 13 Tunisian girls headed to the
battlefield in response to the «sexual jihad» fatwa. [9]

«After the sexual liaisons they have [in Syria] in the name of `jihad
al-nikah' ' (sexual holy war, in Arabic) ' [these girls] come home
pregnant», Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi bin Jeddou testified to
Tunisian legislators months after Al-Khadimi's condemnations,
explaining that the misguided girls could have over a hundred
partners. [10]

Targeting Bishops, Priests, Monks, and Nuns: Besieging the People of «The Way»

Since the start of the fighting, Christian spiritual figures have been
targeted in one way or another. There are the cases of Greek Orthodox
Archbishop Sayedna Paul (Boulos) Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox
Metropolitan Mar Gregorios John Abraham (Yohanna Ibrahim), which were
kidnapped near the Turkish border, on April 22, 2013. Their driver, a
Christian priest himself, was killed instantly for protecting the two
Christian metropolitans by refusing to let them leave their car. A
fourth person in the car, Fouad Eliya, managed to remain free (and
explain what happened). [11]

The Turkish government is directly involved in the kidnapping of the
two Orthodox Christian bishops. The Turkish newswire Dogan News Agency
(Dogan Haber Ajansı) reported on July 23, 2013 that the murders or,
using the report's words, «assassins» of the two Syrian bishops were
arrested in Konya. [12] The arrest happened to be of anti-Russian
fighters from the North Caucasus, which corresponded to Foud Eliya's
account that Boulos Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim were taken by North
Caucasian militants dressed like Taliban fighters from Afghanistan.

Grand Mufti Hassoun revealed that Turkish-trained Chechen fighters
were dispatched by Ankara to kidnap Sayedna Boulos Yazigi and Mar
Gregorios, because of two important reasons. According to Sheikh
Hassoun, the first reason is that Metropolitan Gregorios was asked by
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas to head a church
committee to begin the process of reclaiming the vast holdings of the
Syriac Orthodox Church that the Turkish government had confiscated
during its persecution of Syriac Orthodox Christians. [14]

In a meeting between Prime Minister Erdogan and Mar Gregorios, the
Turkish government asked that the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
establish a eparchy (an ecclesiastical province or administrative
division of the church with a metropolitan) in Turkey and to even
relocate its patriarchate from Damascus to Hatay (Antioch), but
Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim refused and said that the patriarchate of
the Syriac Orthodox Church will never change locations, that Syriac
Orthodox Christians recognized the Levant as one unified land, and
that a bishop would be assigned to Turkey when the Syriac Orthodox
Church's properties were returned by the Turkish government, which
angered Turkish officials. [15] The other reason that the Orthodox
Christian cleric was targeted was that he was reconciling
anti-government fighters peacefully with the Syrian government in
Aleppo Governate, which upset Turkey and its allies. [16]

Other cases include those of: Father (Abouna) Fadi Jamal Haddad, a
Antiochian Greek Orthodox priest acting as a mediator in Qatana during
the fighting, who was tortured and shot in the head after he tried to
mediate the release of a doctor that was being ransomed for money;
Father (Abouna) Francois Al-Mourad, a Catholic priest of the
Franciscan Order, who was shot for preventing fellow Christians and
Syrians from being hurt by the anti-government fighters; and Father
Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch priest of the Jesuit Order working in
Homs. When Abouna Fadi went to pay the insurgents for the doctor they
had abducted, they kidnapped him too; they would later kill the
Christian priests and leave him on the side of the highway, «horribly
tortured and [with] his eyes gouged out», where his body would be
found on September 25, 2012. [17]

According to the Franciscan Order's representatives in Syria, the
insurgents «broke into the convent, looted it and destroyed
everything. When Fr. FranÒ«ois tried to defend the nuns and other
people, the gunmen shot him dead» on June 23, 2013. [18]

The insurgents murdered Father Frans van der Lugt on April 7,
2014.This an account of the circumstances behind his murder:

Wael Salibi, 26, recalled how when the Christian area in Homs was
taken over by rebels, 66,000 of the faithful «left their home, and
just few of them stayed there. He was the only priest, he stayed in
his church.»

«Just months before he died, he said `I can't leave my people, I can't
leave my church, I am director of this church, how can I leave them?'»
Salibi told CNA on April 11.

Salibi, who hails from the now-ravished city of Homs, grew up as a
close friend and pupil of Fr. Frans, who was brutally killed on April
7. Days before his 76th birthday, an unknown gunman entered his
church, beat him and shot him in the head. [19]

In Hasakah (Hasce) many of the Christian Syrians fled, but almost
30,000 stayed as internal refugees. The Syrian Christians who belonged
to the Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Syriac
Catholic Church, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, and the Armenian
Catholic Church collectively asked the world for help and to put an
end to the fighting, in an appeal that went unheard, in late-2012;
they have suffered from persecution, lawlessness, kidnappings,
ransoms, and murder. One Christian from the area told Fides News
Agency that Al-Nusra was targeting «all young people who were born
between 1990 and 1992. They look for them, accuse them of being
soldiers for the national service and kill them cold-bloodedly. They
want to terrorize young people to prevent them from enlisting.» [20]

Another example of the assault on the Christian community is
Al-Nusra's assault on the town of Maaloula. Maaloula is one of a few
villages maintaining an old dialect of Aramaic, known as the language
of Jesus of Nazareth. Many Christian structures and historic sites
fill the Syrian town, but the Melkite Greek Catholic Saint Sergius
(Mar Sarkis) Monastery and Antiochian Greek Orthodox Saint Thecla (Mar
Taqla) Monastery standout. The town became the scene of fighting
between Al-Nusra and the Syrian Arab Army and switched hands between
the insurgents and Syrian government four times between late-2013 and

Many of Maaloula's residents, both Christian and Muslim alike, became
trapped in their homes and local buildings, including forty Greek
Orthodox Christian nuns and the orphans they were looking after, which
sparked panic in the Christian populations of Syria and Lebanon. Hence
the strong backing of Bashar Al-Assad's government by all of Syria's
minorities and the expression of these type of sentiments were nearly
universal among Christian Syrians: «`They're coming after us,' [said]
Odette Abu Zakham, a 65-year-old woman in the congregation who lives
in the nearby historic Christian district of Bab Touma. `All they do
is massacre people, all they know is killing.'» [21] Not only were the
nuns held hostage by Al-Nusra, but the anti-government fighters
desecrated absolutely all of Maaloula's shrines and Christian
buildings, stole its historic artifacts to sell in the black market,
and scattered the partially Aramaic-speaking population of the town.
Eyewitnesses who escaped Maaloula give this account below:

[The insurgents] tried to change the religious and
architectural-historical look of the ancient Christian town entirely:
completely destroying some churches, the militants brought down all
bells from other ones. The fate of two other world-famous monuments of
Ma'loula was no less tragic: extremists blew up the statue of Christ
the Savior, which had stood at the entrance of St. Thecla Convent, as
well as the statue of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, which had stood close
to the Safir hotel, the latter of which served as the main shelter for
Takfirists for many months. [22]

Easter, in 2014 was a special time for Maaloula. Around Easter, the
Syrian government regained the town. Maaloula was finally secured and
residents were returning. «The display of hatred was clear ' the
houses are totally destroyed, the whole village was destroyed. I can't
describe the amount of damage to the village», a returning resident by
the name of Lorain told the press about what the insurgents did. [23]
President Al-Assad visited too. Al-Assad himself came to visit it as a
sign of the Syrian government's commitment to its entire population
regardless of their faith or ethnicity. Both the Western rite and
Eastern rite Christian celebrations of Easter, respectively using the
Gregorian and Julian calendars, fell on the same date too: April 20,

(To be continued)


[1] The term Christian is akin to the term Mohammedian, which was once
used to describe Muslims. It was a name originally used as a
derogatory term by non-Christians to identify the followers of Jesus
of Nazareth and «the Way» by them, but would eventually be accepted
and adopted by many of the Christians; the Arabic word «deen» means
«way» and not religion as it is commonly substituted for.
[2] Pinar Tremblay, «Armenian-Americans blame Turkey for Kassab
invasion, Al-Monitor, April 3, 2014.
[3] «Syria has been reduced to banditry and anarchy, says Gregory III
Laham», Vatican Insider, May 4, 2012.
[4] «13 Syrian Christian Women Raped and Killed by Islamists»
Pravoslavie, April 5, 2013; «Rape and atrocities on a young Christian
in Qusair», Fides News Agency, July 2, 2013; Stoyan Zaimov, «Syrian
Christian Mother Reveals Stories of Rape, Church Attacks in Streets of
Damascus», Christian Post, October 17, 2013; Jamie Dettmer, «Syria's
Christians Flee Kidnappings, Rape, Executions», Daily Beast, November
19, 2013.
[5] «Rape and atrocities», Fides, op. cit.
[6] «ISIS in Mosul Orders Unmarried Women to `Jihad By Sex,'» Assyrian
International News Agency, June 21, 2014.
[7] Leonardo Blair, «Christian Father Commits Suicide After ISIS
Members Rape Wife and Daughter in Front of Him Because He Couldn't Pay
Poll Tax», Christian Post, June 25, 2014.
[8] Mohammed Yassin Al-Jalassi, «Tunisians Raise Alarm on Fatwa
Encouraging `Sexual Jihad,'» Al-Monitor, March 27, 2013.
[9] Ibid.
[10] «Sex Jihad raging in Syria, claims minister», Agence
France-Presse, September 20, 2013.
[11] Dikran Ego, «Turkey's Role in the Kidnapping of the Syrian
Bishops», Assyrian International News Agency, February 1, 2012.
[12] Ismail Akkaya, «Suriyeli metropolitlerin katil zanlıları Konya'da
yakalandı» [«Syrian metropolitan's alleged assassins were caught in
Konya»], Dogan Haber Ajansı, July 23, 2013.
[13] Dikran Ego, «Turkey's Role in Kidnapping», AINA, op. cit.
[14] Grand Mufti Hassoun explains this in a video released by the
Stockholm-based Syriac Foundation on May 4, 2014.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] «Fr. Fadi Jamil Haddad: Priest, Trusted By All, Martyred in
Syria»,, October 28, 2012: .
[18] «Custos of the Holy Land: Fr FranÒ«ois Mourad killed by Islamist
insurgents in al-Ghassaniyah»,, June 25, 2013: .
[19] Elise Harris, «`I can't leave my people': Priest killed in Syria
hailed as martyr», Catholic News Agency, April 15, 2014.
[20] «Appeal from the people of Mesopotamia, left to themselves»,
Fides News Agency, January 17, 2013.
[21] Lee Keath, «Seizure of nuns stokes Syrian Christian fears»,
Associated Press, December 8, 2013.
[22] «All Shrines of Ma'loula Either Destroyed or Desecrated»,
Pravoslavie, January 13, 2014.
[23] Firas Makdesi, «Syria's Assad pays Easter visit to recaptured
Christian town», Reuters, April 20, 2014. =wiping-out-the-christians-of-syria-and-iraq-to-remap-the-mid-east-prerequisite-to-a-clash-of-civilizations