Idlib Jihadi Removal on Summit Agenda

03/26/2020 Syria (International Christian Concern) – A summit held between Russia and Turkey this month concerning the fate of Idlib (Syria) included discussion about removing extremist groups from the province. Moscow specifically asked Turkey to remove Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a terrorist organization, from this area. However, Turkey continues to remain hesitant about removing their support from HTS, although Ankara had designated HTS as a terrorist organization in 2018. In years prior, Turkey had expressed disappointment at the international arena’s labeling of HTS as terrorists.

This disagreement about the future of HTS in Syria, specifically Idlib, greatly impacts the amount and type of international military involvement in the area. The implications on minority communities are significant, especially for non-Muslims. HTS has an Islamist agenda that automatically views groups like Christians as something beyond second-class citizens. Consequently, when the fighting commences, religious minorities are viewed as expendable and are thus an extremely vulnerable demographic in areas where HTS has a presence. Many internally displaced persons have sought refuge in Idlib, making the situation all the more pressing. While most Syrian Christians have fled because of the conflict, some have also sought refuge Idlib.

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