After the fall of IS, Easter celebrations were held in only in some northeastern Syrian areas.
A priest blesses worshippers during an Orthodox Easter service at the Church of St. Jacob in the Kurdish-controlled city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria, April 28, 2019.
Christians in Syria on April 28 celebrated their first Easter following the declaration of the defeat of the Islamic State (IS). The militant group had taken the province of Raqqa as its main stronghold in recent years, and had committed atrocious crimes against Christians in Raqqa and in Hasakah province.
The Eastern Orthodox church celebrated Resurrection Sunday on April 28. Catholics and Protestants, who observe the Western Christian liturgical calendar, had observed Easter on April 21.
Despite the activities and events organized by churches and religious associations in northeastern Syria, Christians are far from getting their normal lives back.
Gabriel Moshe Kourieh, the head of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, said, “Christians will regain normal life only when stability and security are instilled as part of a secular democratic regime for all Syrians.”
The Assyrian Democratic Organization and other Christian groups seek to “preserve the national, cultural, linguistic and religious heritage of Christians by celebrating national and religious holidays” and by promoting customs and traditions, including different languages, Kourieh told Al-Monitor.
In turn, the Syriac Union Party, observing the Eastern calendar, issued Easter congratulations to all Syrian Syriacs and Assyrians. “In Syria, despite the war in the last eight years and the ensuing exodus of our people, will and faith remained unwavering. [Our people] continued to assert their attachment to their land and to defend their existence and rights.”
However, Easter celebrations and festivals did not take place in village churches in the Khabour area of Hasakah and Raqqa. These villages were abandoned as a result of the killings, abductions and displacement by IS.
Jimmy Shanhyan, a Christian who now lives in Germany and works for an organization supporting civil society in Raqqa, said he has strong memories of previous holidays. He was displaced from Raqqa along with hundreds of other Christians after IS took over. The province was home to 1,500 Christian families, but then only 25 families remained. Shanhyan told Al-Monitor that IS had destroyed three churches in Raqqa.
IS took over the city of Raqqa in early 2014, and Christians were displaced as the Islamic militant group advanced during the year. Displacement increased after IS kidnapped hundreds of Assyrian Christian members in Hasakah.
Christians were the most affected in IS-controlled areas. They faced various kinds of persecution, such as murder and kidnappings. They were forced to pay IS a special tax (jizia)in return for protection. They were denied their right to practice their religious rituals.
Jamil Diarbakerli, the director of the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights, told Al-Monitor, “When IS invaded Christian villages it wreaked havoc and devastation. More than 10 villages and about 12 churches and synagogues were destroyed in whole or in part in the Jazira region, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Tabqa.”
He added, “About 280 Christians were abducted from Khabour villages. About 100 families were kidnapped by IS in the province of Homs in central Syria, and more than 15 killed.”
In light of these horrific figures, Diarbakerli does not believe Christian holidays will be celebrated as they once were before the war in the Christian towns and villages in northern Syria. “This needs more than defeating IS,” he said. “To regain their normal lives and practice their religious rituals again, Christians need reconstruction and a political transition in Syria.”
He said Syria had witnessed a massive wave of Christian migration. The prospects of their return are bleak amid a current environment favoring threats, killings and displacement. He continued, “There are a number of Christian villages in Jazira, Raqqa and Tabqa where life is almost nonexistent. These villages are still destroyed.”
Osama Abu Uday, a member of the media office of the Raqqa Civil Council, told Al-Monitor, “There is only one [Christian] family left in Raqqa [city]. All other families were displaced to the areas controlled by the regime. All of Raqqa’s churches were leveled to the ground by IS explosions.”
Hossam Sheikh, a media activist in the city of Derek in Hasakah, told Al-Monitor, “The scarce number of Christians left in the region shows the extent of the Christian tragedy in recent years. Only around 40,000 Christians currently live in Jazira, down from more than 150,000 before 2011.”
Still, the churches and streets of Tel Tamur, Qamishli, Amouda and Derek in northeastern Syria were all decorated for the Easter celebrations. However, such ornamentation was absent from villages and churches in other areas.
Although Syrian Christians are attempting to revive their religious holidays in areas recovered from IS, Diarbakerli said these areas will not see life as normal as long as the culture of the militias that govern the region prevails amid the absence of an all-inclusive rule of law governing the full spectrum of the Syrian people.
Mohammad Abdulsattar Ibrahim contributed to this article.
The US Treasury added three top Hezbollah figures to its list of sanctioned individuals on Tuesday, including two members of the Lebanese Parliament and a security official responsible for coordinating between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s security agencies.
It was the first time the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had designated a member of Lebanon’s Parliament under a sanctions list that targets those accused by Washington of providing support to terrorist organizations. Washington has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
South African fans in Cairo celebrating their team’s win over Egypt at the African Cup of Nations. Photo: Reuters / Sumaya Hisham.
Three days after South Africa stunned the world of international soccer by knocking hosts Egypt out of the 2019 African Cup of Nations, the sound of elation remains clearly detectable in the voice of the team’s Jewish midfielder, Dean Furman.
“It was a fantastic victory, just fantastic,” Furman told The Algemeiner during a break in training on Tuesday, as South Africa prepared for its crucial quarterfinal game against Nigeria, another of the continent’s toughest sides, tomorrow.
Pieter van Oordt, left, with his brother, Roger, at the Israel
For the second time in recent history, a Dutch Christian organization dedicated to supporting Israel has gone head-to-head with the government. With their family tradition of belief in Israel that preceded the state of Israel by almost one hundred years, it seems unlikely that the van Oordts are about to back down, no matter what the odds.
Last month, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy made a request from the management of the Israel Products Center (IPC) to ensure they were in compliance with regulations adopted in 2015 by the European Commission requiring products made by Jewish owned companies in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, and sections of Jerusalem to be labeled in a manner indicating their origins.
Studies have shown that dairy cows contribute large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, caused by the organisms living in their microbiomes.
Genetically modifying cows may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and feed world populations, a new study led by Prof. Itzhak Mizrahi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev suggests.
“Our findings are both a major breakthrough for basic science and will have a positive impact on two major challenges facing the international community for the foreseeable future: climate change and food security,” Mizrahi said.
The decision by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to promote Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter reflects his future political aspirations.
Incoming Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi walks out at the end of a handover ceremony where he replaces Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 15, 2019.
Israel has its own version of Napoleon’s famous saying, “Every soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his pack.” In these parts, every general carries a prime minister’s baton — or at least that of a defense minister — in his pack
As Islamist Watch has pointed out many times before, Islam is enormously diverse – containing many competing schools of theology, schools of jurisprudence, sects, ethnicities, cultures and mysticisms. Islamism is also not a single force; it comprises dozens of (both) competing and collaborating radical ideologies.
One of the most intriguing divisions, then, within both American Islam and Islamism of late has been growing dissent over the question of liberalism.
Right after Trump’s inauguration, I ran an article about how incredibly fake the news coverage was about his inauguration. (Those reading my site know I’m not a big Trump fan, but credit where credit is due and calling fake where calling fake is due.) The media was nothing short of spectacularly fake in the news it contrived that week on CNN, the New York Times and the other major fake media, and they mostly got away with it.
It wasn’t condescension or contempt. Recent remarks by former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit reek of racism. That is the proper way to frame them, calling them anything else is letting him off easy. In its classic, formal sense, racism is when a certain social sector perceives itself as superior because of clear racial criteria. Shavit represents an updated version of racism that doesn’t require ethnicity or religion as proof of a defect – you can call it “essential racism.”
Little Napoleon Barak is going to save Israeli Democracy? What a bunch of claptrap Orwellian doublespeak.
Well let’s check out history. How well did the original Napoleon save France’s democratic revolution against the monarchy?
Hmm, if I recall he crowned himself emperor!
For years, the pundits have been telling us that Israeli democracy is in danger because of the Arab birthrate, or because of the Jewish nation-state law, or because of the debates over the powers of Israel’s High Court.
I wonder if they will recognize the danger posed by the 10 left-wing American Jewish organizations that have formed a new umbrella organization, the essential purpose of which is to undermine Israeli democracy.