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08/27/2020 Syria (International Christian Concern) – According to a pastor, 14 Kurdish youth from the Syrian city of Afrin were kidnapped by Turkish-backed Syrian militants. Each of these youths were a Christian convert. Other reports claim a different number of those kidnapped.

Regardless, the news is jolting but not necessarily unexpected. Turkey’s invasion of Afrin in 2018 was nothing less than a genocide. It was an ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish community. Additionally, a number of local Kurds had also converted to Christianity and were worshiping freely in Afrin. The invasion was pursued with strong Islamic overtones. Thus the church found themselves targeted for being both Kurdish and Christian.

The news of Turkish-backed militants kidnapping Christian converts in Afrin follows news that they had arrested a Christian convert on charges of blasphemy at the end of July. In this particular case, members of Failaq al-Sham had ordered the convert to turn over his school so it could be repurposed as an Islamic educational institution. When he refused, he was arrested on blasphemy charges.

Turkey has heavily invested itself in the Syrian conflict by providing funds and other resources to militant groups. These groups are all widely recognized as terrorists, many of whom have connections to ISIS or al-Qaeda. Turkey is a NATO-member and candidate for EU membership. But as its actions in Syria suggest, religious freedom is not a priority for Turkey.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]