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Syrian Christians fear future as violence worsens

ICC Note:

Few Christians in Syria are willing to speak out about the threats they’ve faced, fearful of being targeted if they do. However, those that speak tell stories of hardship and persecution at the hands of Islamists.

By Fergal Keane

7/31/2012 Syria (BBC) – The woman was clearly frightened. Over and over again she explained that the world should know about what was happening to Christians like her inside Syria.

But she would not appear on camera or even allow her voice to be recorded.

"My husband does not want to draw trouble on us by speaking out," she said.

The family had fled Syria for Lebanon because it was simply too frightening now for Christians, she insisted.

Although I met Christian refugees with widely differing political opinions, all were afraid of being targeted if they spoke publicly.

In several months of meeting refugees from across Syria, these were the most frightened people I had encountered.

"Michel" agreed to be interviewed on condition we disguised his identity.

He chain-smoked and had the pallor of a man who struggled to sleep.

The trouble began, he explained, after the first demonstrations against the regime. He had supported these.

"Then suddenly arms were being used and there were Arabs from different countries," he said. "They broke into Christian houses and accused them of blasphemy."

He said his own house was targeted when he was away, but his wife and two young children were at home.

"It was indescribable fear. They burned tyres in front of the house and wanted to burn the house," he said.

"[My wife] took the children and was jumping over walls from one street to another until they managed to escape."

Complex picture

There have been consistent reports of violence directed against Christians in Syria since the uprising began in March 2011, including attacks on churches.

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