A follow-up to a report from earlier this week: The Assyrian International News Agency reports that four more Assyrian captives taken by the Islamic State during raids on their villages in Syria have been released, including six-year-old Mariana Mirza, who had been kept behind after her pregnant mother was released.
The new report amends the story to say that Mariana’s mother escaped from their village of Tel Goran before ISIS attacked. Mariana’s father’s aunt Bobo, who volunteered to stay behind with her, was also set free.
Osama Edward of the Assyrian Network for Human Rights was quoted by the AFP news service saying that ransoms were paid to secure the freedom of these four hostages. “Negotiations for the releease of the rest are ongoing. For now, it’s going positively,” he added.
A large number of Assyrians still remain in the hands of the Islamic State — over 200 according to most reports, with some saying the number is over 300. At a Sunday rally for the hostages in Glendale, Arizona, Bishop Mar Aprim Khamis of the Assyrian Church of the East said, “We are the people who have faith in Christ. We have been persecuted. We have been massacred. Today it’s not only tragic, it’s genocide.”
The Arizona Republic also quoted Syrian immigrant Jaklein Khano tearfully saying that ISIS “came and attacked my country,” and her people had been “captured with their mothers and their kids… my sister-in-law… her father… It’s just ridiculous. Nobody knows if they have been raped, killed, or tortured. God knows if they’re hungry.” She added the chilling detail that phone calls to loved ones in Syria are sometimes answered by ISIS terrorists who coldly inform the caller that the person they were trying to reach has been taken captive.
AFP also reported today that Lebanon had eased its normally tight border restrictions with Syria to allow seventeen Assyrian Christians fleeing the Islamic State, including several children, to take refuge temporarily in the St. George Assyrian Church in Beirut. The refugees are reportedly on a one-week humanitarian visa.
AINA says a number of refugee families have been left stranded on the border, but a spokesman for the Lebanese government insisted “There is a regular routine administrative procedure that they have to follow in order to enter Lebanon,” and no one who follows this procedure has been blocked. Although Lebanon has been worried about a possible flood of refugees from the Syrian civil war, they have said they would make allowances for Assyrians, especially after news of the big ISIS raids on their villages broke.