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07/28/2022 Syria (International Christian Concern) – Recent reports indicate that a new Turkish military operation in northern Syria may be imminent. Mazloum Abdi, a commander of the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), indicated, “They have amassed troops at the border region. We believe that they have not attacked until now because they could not find the opportunity to do so.” He speculated, however, that the attack was on the immediate horizon and would involve not only the Kurdish region but all of Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has himself stated that he is planning a major military operation, and the Turkish embassy in the United States has been seeking US approval for such a move. Turkish seizures of territorial control in Syria during this prospective military campaign would be purportedly justified as an anti-terrorism buffer zone. Foreshadowing future escalation, Turkey has already engaged in numerous air and artillery strikes in the Kurdish region of northern Syria, recently killing three Assyrian Khabour Guards and three members of the SDF (including two commanders), for example, in violation of a 2019 US-brokered ceasefire between Turkish and Kurdish forces. If Turkey’s determined control over territory in Northern Cyprus is any indication, should Turkey launch its operation and seize control of significant territory in northern Syria, it may not give it up.

A Turkish incursion into Syria would be disastrous for Christians in the region. The territory already controlled by Turkish forces has become a haven for Muslim jihadists, which govern the territory under strict Islamic law. Many Christians, such as those in the Syriac Military Council, have also worked as part of the US-backed coalition in Syria; they would certainly become targets of Turkish authorities. The extent of Turkey’s enmity towards Syrian Christians could be observed in its treatment of three Syriac Christian soldiers captured during the fighting in 2019. The Turkish military captured the three Christians, transferred them to Turkey, and proceeded to beat, torture, and force them to sign confessions in a foreign language that condemned them to lifelong prison sentences. Nadine Maenza, former chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, explained the dire nature of the situation when she told the Jerusalem Post, “If this area falls [to Turkey], there won’t be any Christians or Yazidis left.” Turkey will seek to replace minority populations in Syria with the roughly 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey. A Turkish invasion of Syria is truly an existential threat to the country’s Christian community.

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