ISIS Has Captured Two Christian Villages in Syria and Has Issued Demands
Two Christian villages in Syria have been overrun by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters. The terror group stormed into the Tell Tamer area in Syria, imprisoning Assyrian villagers. They separated the women and children from the men, who were transported to the Abd al-Aziz mountains. ISIS is threatening to kill the village men, but has also offered some in exchange for release of ISIS fighters held by the Kurds. The potential fate of the women is also dire; ISIS usually sells female captives into sexual slavery.
Osama Edward, founder of the Assyrian Human Rights Network, told CNN that the extremist group is now believed to have 150 hostages, citing the latest information from the network’s team on the ground.
Initial estimates put the number seized at between 70 and 100 people, among them women, children and the elderly.
The video message will be directed to President Barack Obama and other members of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, Edward said from Stockholm, Sweden.
The Assyrians were kidnapped early Monday from villages near Tal Tamer in northeastern Syria.
Edward, who has family in the area attacked by the terror group, said the latest information from the ground indicated the hostages had been moved to an ISIS-controlled location.
The activist organization Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently also said on Twitter that ISIS has moved a number of Assyrian captives to Raqqa, which has been called the Islamist extremist group’s de facto capital.
The last message received from the hostages was a text from a kidnapped woman to her husband, Edward said. She said the kidnappers were interrogating the hostages about whether the women were members of local militias.
“They are facing death”
Edward said he feared the hostages would face the same fate as Assyrians targeted in Iraq and the more than 20 members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority slaughtered by ISIS in Libya last month.
“Maybe they are facing the same destiny. That’s why we call on all over the world, like the U.S, Europe, coalition forces — protect Assyrians, save Assyrians in Syria,” he said.
“They are facing death, people are unarmed, they are peaceful. And they need help, they are just left alone — no one’s protecting them.”
Edward said some 35 Assyrian villages and towns had now been taken over by ISIS, forcing thousands of families to flee. Some 600 of these families have taken refuge in St. Mary’s Cathedral in al-Hasakah, Syria.
The Assyrians trace their history back 4,000 years. The area in which they live was once called Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of writing. Their original religion was Ashurism, but they have been predominantly Christian since the third century. They were once part of the great Assyrian Empire (shown in the map above).
“How can Syria be Syria without the Assyrians?” asks Edward. “We gave the country our name.”