ICC Note: To be a Syrian, especially one from a Muslim background is extremely dangerous. Even for someone who has escaped and is living now outside the country in neighboring Lebanon, the risks are still present. Tarek* shares his story and all that he has been through as Christian in the midst of intense conflict and persecution.
09/26/2014 Syria (The Star) – Born and raised a Muslim in Syria, he was given the name “Tarek” in high school, when government officials wanted to enlist computer students to serve in an Internet surveillance program.
He never worked in the unit, but he has used the name to protect himself, both as a man fleeing Syria’s civil war and, more recently, as a recent convert to Christianity.
Now a refugee being sponsored by Toronto’s St. Philip Neri Catholic Parish in Downsview, Tarek* has spent more than a year waiting for his application to be processed so he can move to Canada.
But he maintains his assumed identity in Lebanon because he has been told his father and stepbrothers are determined to kill him for becoming a Christian.
“They are searching to cut my throat,” he says matter-of-factly. “I’ve been told they have hired someone to find me to get the mission accomplished.”
Tarek says he is nervous about the delays surrounding his move to Canada.
“Sometimes, I feel in danger. Especially when I go into the streets, when I come to Beirut. You never
know if someone is looking for you.
“I’m living in a place where the majority are Muslims. So whenever I go to church on Sunday, they would know I’m Christian. So I don’t say anything about my religion, and when I go to mass, I say I am going to English classes because I plan to travel.”
He has spent the past three years living with deception, chaos and danger.
Before anti-government protests exploded into civil war in Syria, Tarek, at just 17, was arrested by police. He had been going to a store to buy bread when police swept through the neighbourhood rounding up protest leaders.
At the police station, he was beaten so badly he had a fractured skull and a broken arm, he says. He was held in a 9-square-metre cell with 40 other people.
When released he had to spend five days in hospital.
Five months later, he says, he was kidnapped and held hostage for 10 days by radical Muslim militiamen.
“I was taken with others from a school bus on my way home,” he says, explaining that radicals from two villages just outside Damascus were fighting for control of the area, and a group from one village took people from his village off a bus.…