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5/30/2024 Syria (International Christian Concern) When conflict and war erupt in the Middle East, the region’s Christian minority often gets caught in the crossfire. 

Since Syria’s civil war started in 2011, thousands of Christians throughout the country have lost their homes, dreams, and even their lives in the crossfires of the conflict.  

The Khabur River valley’s Christian community in northeast Syria has suffered repeatedly since the start of Syria’s civil war. The community is comprised of descendants of those who fled the genocide against Armenian and Assyrian communities in the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s and, more recently, Christians who fled violence in neighboring Iraq.  

Early in the war, the community suffered casualties from the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown on civil uprisings. At least 18 church buildings throughout Syria were damaged by the regime’s indiscriminate bombing during the first couple of years. One example occurred in the village of Tel Nasri in November 2012, when the inhabitants of the Assyrian Christian village were conducting a Sunday worship service. A regime MiG fighter jet bombed the church, killing a young man named Ninos and causing many others to be injured. The bombing also destroyed numerous homes and places of worship in the village. According to friends and family, Ninos was one of the sweetest young people anyone could ever meet. He served in his church every Sunday until the bombing took his innocent life. 

From 2014 to 2018, the Islamic State group (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra stormed the area and perpetrated an internationally recognized genocide against Christians in northeast Syria, destroying churches and displacing Christians. The population of believers in the Khabur Valley went from roughly 15,000 to only a few hundred. 

Since 2019, when Turkey conducted a large-scale military incursion into northeast Syria, more than 200,000 Kurds, Arabs, Christian Assyrians, and Armenians were pushed out toward the city of al-Hasakah in the southern region of the Khabur River valley. Turkey has continued airstrikes and shelling on the Khabur River valley, preventing Christians from returning to these villages. Turkish President Recep Erdogan has threatened a new offensive this summer into northern Iraq and northern Syria, a move that would further endanger these Christian communities.  

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