WASHINGTON – Syrian Christian leaders have expressed concern about escalating Turkish attacks in northeastern Syria, saying recent military action has driven many Christians and members of other minority groups out of their homes.
Military officials in the region said last week that Turkey had carried out attacks on the Christian-majority city of Tel Tamar and nearby villages.
“Turkish shelling recently destroyed two schools, a municipal building, a bakery and a power line,” said Matai Hanna, a spokeswoman for the Syrian Military Council.
He said it was against international law, which prohibits targeting civilian infrastructure.
The Syrian Military Council is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led military alliance that was a major partner of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS.
Turkey sees the SDF as an extension of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant organization designated as a terrorist organization in Washington and Ankara.
Hana said his team was ready to defend the region from any major attacks led by Turkey and its Syrian partners.
Turkish military forces and Syrian militias have been in control of parts of northeastern Syria since October 2019, following a major military operation against SDF fighters.
Since then, sporadic clashes have erupted between local forces and Turkish-backed armed groups, despite multiple ceasefire agreements between U.S. forces and Russia.
Basham Ishaq, president of the Syrian National Council, Syria’s largest Christian political party, said Turkish bombings on the Syrian-Turkish border had displaced large numbers of people, including many Assyrian Christians.
“The recent Turkish bombing of the town of Tel Tamar has caused instability and anxiety among the city’s residents, forcing many Assyrian Christian residents to flee,” he told VOA.
Isaac, the Washington branch of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the SDF, added that “a significant number of residents fleeing the bombing area by Turkish military forces have settled in other Assyrian villages away from the Turkish bombing, which has further increased the local population.” Uncertainty in between. ”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not respond to a VOA request for comment. But pro-government Turkish media have reported recent attacks by Turkish armed forces in northeastern Syria.
The UN Committee of Inquiry into Syria has accused Turkish-backed Syrian groups of committing war crimes against Christians, Yazidis, Kurds and other ethnic and religious minorities in northern Syria. Rights groups have accused these groups of bringing about demographic change by pushing the area’s indigenous residents.
Nadine Menza, chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told VOA: The remaining survivors will flee.
“The USCIRF is recommending that the US government press Turkey to provide a timetable for withdrawal from northeastern Syria and to stop all activities that negatively affect the region’s religious and ethnic minorities,” he said.
Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s Turkey program and a former member of the Turkish parliament, said the Turkish government was trying to justify its attacks by targeting mainly Christian settlements in northeastern Syria. PKK.
“Ongoing attacks by the Turkish military and Islamic proxies in Ankara have not only led to civilian casualties in and out of Tel Tamar, but have also displaced vulnerable minorities in the region,” he told VOA.
“The lack of vocal opposition within Turkey, the role of the Turkish government as well as the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, and the complexity of human rights abuses in northern Syria exacerbate the problem,” Erdemir said.
Omar, known as VOA, contributed to the story from Syrian oil Temer.