Christian leader says Turkish threats to invade Syria danger to Christians as well

“We don’t consider these [Turkish] threats to be against Kurds only. It is a threat against this democratic project, and all the people who live east of the Euphrates, including Christians.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey’s threats to invade the east of the Euphrates is a danger to the existence of Christians in the north and east of Syria, the deputy head of a Christian party said on Thursday.

“We don’t consider these [Turkish] threats to be against Kurds only. It is a threat against this democratic project, and all the people who live east of the Euphrates, including Christians,” Sanharib Barsoum, the deputy head of the Syriac Union Party in Syria, told Kurdistan 24.

The deputy head said recent threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has “created fear among the Christian people” in Syria’s north.

On Thursday, the Syriac Union Party called on the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) to put an end to the Turkish threats and prevent any “catastrophic consequences.”

“We fear that we will become victims of new wars started by Erdogan,” Barsoum said. “Erdogan’s goal is to implement his radical project, to replace the democratic project.”

“The international coalition should assume its responsibility to ensure stability and peace in East Euphrates and should take a more serious stance against the Turkish state,” he continued.

The US has responded strongly to Turkish threats of an attack in northeastern Syria, describing any such actions as “unacceptable.”

Barsoum reminded that during Turkey’s operation in Afrin earlier this year, Christian Kurds were expelled.

“In Afrin, the self-administration allowed the opening of three churches, and all the people were converts. Turkey and the FSA [Free Syrian Army] destroyed those churches and forced the people to flee,” he said.

“This new model by the self-administration [of northern Syria] allows people to choose their religion. It is the first step toward success in overcoming the extremists’ ideology,” the deputy head added.

According to Barsoum, the people in northern Syria have attempted to create an administration which supports and recognizes all the main religions in the region including Islam, Yezidism, and Christianity.

“What you saw in Kobani had happened in Afrin: Muslim Kurds who converted to Christianity were able to practice their religion without restrictions,” he said.

He also underlined positive steps being made by the administration such as the rehabilitation of churches in Raqqa and Tabqa and noted that the self-administration does not support one religion over the another.

“Turkey played a negative role against all the people of Syria, through their backing and support since the very beginning of the Syrian revolution for Islamist and radical and jihadi groups,” Barsoum said.

Samir Yaghouna Youghano, 50, who lives in the village of Tell Nasri, where IS attacks displaced a majority of the Assyrian Christian population in 2015, said Turkish attacks would lead to further displacement of Christians in the region.

“If Erdogan is allowed to attack this place, no Christian will remain here. This area is not just inhabited by Kurds, but also by Arabs, Christians, and others,” he told Kurdistan 24.

Youghano also called on the United States to pressure Turkey to stop its attacks.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany