Assyrian Christian Refugees Look for ‘Quickest Way’ Out of Syria
ICC Note: For the thousands of Christians who’ve fled Syria, many are searching desperately for a place of refuge. Many are now attempting to move out of the region and on to Europe or North America (joining the flood of refugees making the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean).
04/30/2015 Syria (Syria Deeply) “We are searching for the quickest way to go to Europe or Canada, maybe America,” said Jack Zayya, an Assyrian Christian refugee from Syria who arrived in Beirut two months ago. Standing in front of a local Assyrian church, he recalled the difficult journey from his hometown of al-Hasakah, situated in northeastern Syria and home to many Christians and Kurds.
Before the war, Zayya led a good life back in Syria, making a home for his wife and two children. “I had a car wash and, thank God, it provided for us for a long time,” he told Syria Deeply. “But it’s all gone now—the house, our belongings, the car wash, everything.”
During the first two years of the conflict, al-Hasakah was relatively calm. Yet as Assad’s military forces pulled out of the region in 2013, local residents had to fend for themselves against a variety of armed factions. They were able to protect the area for several months, until Jabhat Al Nusra arrived and took control of much of al-Hasakah towards the end of that year.
“Things were hard under [Jabhat Al Nusra], but it got much worse when Da’esh arrived,” Zayya explained, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, or IS.
Kidnappings became a regular occurrence in the area after IS arrived, and Assyrians, who made up some 40,000 of the 1.2 million Syrian Christians before the violence started in 2011, have often been targeted. An estimated 220 Assyrians were taken hostage by IS in late February, and only 19 have been released to date. One Assyrian refugee from an al-Hasakah area village, who asked that his name not be used, said that nearly 90 relatives from his wife’s extended family are among those still held by IS.