ICC Note: Human Rights Watch recently condemned opposition groups in Syria for “unjustified attacks against minority places of worship,” Barnabas Aid reports. Christians and their places of worship have been increasingly targeted by terrorist attacks. While these attacks have not occurred to the extent that was seen in Iraq which resulted in more than half the Christian population leaving the country following the US-led invasion in 2003, Syrian Christians fear that if they trend continues, they too may be permanently driven out of their homeland.
01/28/2013 Syria (BA) -Human Rights Watch has condemned opposition groups in Syria for “unjustified attacks against minority places of worship”, saying that these amount to war crimes.
The leading human rights organisation released on 23 January the findings of investigations it carried out in Latakia and Idlib governorates in November and December 2012.
It found evidence that opposition fighters had “deliberately destroyed religious sites” and that the attacks had been carried out after the areas had fallen to opposition control and government forces had left.
Churches were raided by armed gunmen after they seized control of the Christian villages of Jdeideh and Ghasaniyeh in Latakia.
They took control of the former on 11 December and, once the government troops had fled, broke into the village church; they stole items and fired numerous shots inside, causing structural damage. The rebels also used the minister’s quarters next to the church to fire at a neighbouring village, where government troops were present.
One resident told Human Rights Watch that opposition fighters stole medicine from a church-run clinic, looted homes and kidnapped civilians.
Events in Ghasaniyeh followed a similar pattern. Rebels entered the village in late November, broke into the local church and stole petrol and diesel fuel. They looted homes and kidnapped one resident.
The violence and dire humanitarian conditions in Jdeideh and Ghasaniyeh drove Christians to flee the villages in large numbers.