Not long after the defeat of the Islamic State in the area, Syrian Christians warn that US military withdrawal from the Kurdish-controlled region, announced yesterday by President Donald Trump, will expose them to danger.
“The expected military invasion [by Turkey] and the possible confrontation with the Kurds might oblige Christians of the region to leave,” said Joseph Kassab, president of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon. “This means one more tragedy to the Christian presence in Syria.”
Seeking to honor his campaign promises to extract America from “endless war,” Trump yielded to Turkey’s demand to establish a “safe zone” along its southern border with Syria. Since August, the United States and Turkey administered a joint buffer zone patrol in the Kurdish-majority area.
Turkey’s objectives are two-fold. First, to resettle up to 2 million Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey. Second, to clear the border of Kurdish fighters linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), deemed a terrorist entity by both Ankara and Washington.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had threatened to establish a 20-mile corridor unilaterally, frustrated by US cooperation with Kurdish fighters belonging to the PKK.
Kurds number approximately 30 million, located primarily in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. They are one of the largest stateless people in the world, though within Iraq the constitution has designated Kurdistan as an autonomous region.
Affiliated Arab fighters were previously given residence in Kurdish-majority Afrin, resulting in desecration of Christian and Yazidi places of worship.
“It is very possible that the American withdrawal from the region will lead to the extinction of Christianity from the region,” said Ashty Bahro, former director of the Evangelical Alliance of Kurdistan, in Iraq, noting the safety there for Christians and other minorities.“How can another country [Turkey] enter the pretext of liberation from terrorism? Will the target be only terrorism or ‘undesirable people’? Leaving the area without proper care will lead to another disaster.”
The Kurdish-controlled area of northeast Syria stretches 300 miles from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border. Approximately 750,000 people live there, including estimates of between 40,000 and 100,000 Christians.
Over 700,000 Christians have fled Syria since 2011. And while some warn of further displacement, others fear a greater threat.
Posted by David Pilkington
Extract from https://www.christianitytoday.com