07-30-2015 Syria (Al-Monitor): They were kidnapped by the Islamic State on Feb. 23 in the governorate of Hasakah, Syria. A total of 253 Assyrian Christians, from 35 different villages along the Khabur River. A small group of 23 elderly individuals were released March 1, allegedly due to their age. Among the sources who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, the exact number of those initially abducted varies slightly. Since then, little more has been learned about the fate of those who are still held hostage. Statements that could not be confirmed claim that local Sunni leaders are negotiating for the release of the hostages. Ransom requests by IS reaching $35 million have not been met and a veil of deafening silence has covered the issue.
A Christian Assyrian woman released recently agreed to meet with Al-Monitor at her daughter’s home in the outskirts of Beirut and tell her story of those months living as an IS hostage and what she could learn about her captors and their identities. For security reasons, her name will not be disclosed.
Sitting on her mattress on the floor, she said she is safe now, but the rest of her family is still held by IS in Syria’s Shaddadeh. As far as she knows her family is still there, where they had all been kept since February, when the villages were attacked.
The woman cried during the interview as she explained her feelings of anguish at the moment of separation from her family. Her daughter, who had been living in Lebanon for years prior to the beginning of the conflict in Syria and was present at the interview, cried with her for her sister and nephews’ fates. Georgio, who was also present, interjected with his own personal account of what the Assyrian Christian community is undergoing.
Below is the text of the interview:
Al-Monitor: What happened when IS reached your town? Was there any resistance? Where were you and your family when you were abducted?
Assyrian: We were at home. There had been no time to run away. They stormed in the door, their faces not covered. They put a gun to my chest and threw an image of Christ hanging on the wall on the floor. They asked me to step on it. I had no choice. My daughters and grandchildren were there. They took all of us to the river. I have broken legs [a physical condition present prior to the IS attack] so I cannot walk, my daughter had to carry me on her back. No one posed any resistance. We knew what had transpired in the village of Tel Tamer, where attempts to resist were made. Anyone who resisted there was killed, the church was bombed. They burned our house, too, but that I am aware of no one who was killed. From our village alone they took 85 people. Anyone they found they took.