Syria’s civil war has had tragic consequences for all Syrians and the death toll now numbers more than 100,000. Within this conflict the country’s Christian population has been targeted repeatedly. As this article highlights it is not only by foreign Islamic militants but also by fellow Syrians who fear that Christians may remain loyal to current President Bashar al-Assad. The violence and kidnappings they have experienced has led to a massive migration out of Syria into neighboring countries.
By Reese Erlich
7/10/2013 Syria (Global Post) – A Syrian rebel group took credit for setting off a bomb in a supermarket parking lot in a part of southern Beirut populated with Hezbollah supporters Tuesday. Fifty-three people were injured, according to Lebanese health officials. The bomb exploded several hundred yards from the offices of Hezbollah officials but wounded mainly civilians.
The Brigade 313-Special Missions, affiliated with the rebel Free Syrian Army, announced responsibility for the attack on its Facebook page. But another FSA brigade denounced the attack, and responsibility for the bombing has yet to be determined.
Syria’s civil war has spilled over into Lebanon with greater intensity in the last few months. Hezbollah and its allies support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, while Sunni militias back the rebels. The war remains a political battle, but it has sharply increased religious and ethnic strife in both Syria and Lebanon.
While the war has increased animosity between Sunni and Shia, it has also devastated Syria’s Christians, some of whom have now fled to Lebanon. Their story is rarely told.
Maryam, her husband and two children fled the fighting in Syria and arrived here in Lebanon with only one suitcase each. They left the war-torn city of Qusayr prior to its recapture by pro-government forces.
“Bullets were flying everywhere,” Maryam told GlobalPost, asking that only her first name be used. “There were rockets. My children couldn’t go to school.”
The family suffered months of hardships, in part because they were Christians, according to Maryam. “The mosques announced they wanted to round up all the Christian men. The families became scared.”
The family finally left after masked men came to their apartment intent on taking all the Christian men in the building. “We either had to run for our lives or join the fight,” said Maryam, who is Roman Catholic.
The family fled to Zahle, a predominantly Christian city in the eastern mountains of Lebanon.
Their masked antagonists weren’t the infamous thugs of Assad. Nor were they fighters from other countries intent on waging jihad.
They were local, anti-Assad rebels intent on purging Qusayr of pro-Assad Christians. The city had become a major battleground, with religion as a defining factor.
Maryam is among the thousands of Syrian Christians who have fled the fighting but received little international attention.