The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) charged into eleven of the 35 Christian communities along the Khabur River in Syria in February targeting Tel Tamer, which at the time was protected by Christian fighters and locals determined to defeat the terrorist group. This week, the Islamic State took another shot at conquering it.
“We should resist and stay; we shouldn’t leave our land,” insists Athur Ishak, a 32-year-old mother of one who divorced her husband nine years ago.
Ishak is one of the few who chose to stay in Tel Tamer. She remains in her house with her nine-year-old son Ashur Francis. She is alone since “her family fled the Syrian turmoil and moved to Canada and the United States.” Half of the communities left by the end of 2014. But Ishak is not lonely as she prepares coffee for the men outside her house.
“The people who have stayed to protect the town are my new family; it’s because of them that we are still here,” she explained.
In three days in February, ISIS kidnapped over 220 Christians in Syria and burned two churches. After the attack, those who chose to stay formed militias to fight against ISIS. The majority belong to the Assyrian Guards, but there are a few who are ordinary citizens. They are the only hope for those in Tel Tamer.
“We are surrounded from the south and west,” described Jiwan Issa, head of the town’s council.
ISIS controls Tel Nasri, which is only a half-mile south of Tel Tamer. ISIS terrorists blew up the church of the Virgin Mary in Tel Nasri on Easter Sunday. ISIS has often destroyed shrines, churches, and historic sites upon conquering a territory. The civilians in Tel Tamer are calling for the international community to help them.
“What we need is for you to finish them; we want them off our land,” shouted one elderly woman.
Kurds live among the Christians in Tel Tamer. Issa insists the two groups live peacefully, but “not everyone supports what could be seen as Kurdish encroachment on Christian land.” Some residents still support President Bashar al-Assad. A Christian man blamed America and Israel for ISIS. He claimed “people have sold themselves to ISIS for money.” But the Kurdish forces (YPG) said the Syrian army did nothing to protect the Christians in February.
“We have created a Christian military force that has become a part of the YPG, and this angers the regime,” said YPG spokesman Redur Xelil. “But after they were attacked and the regime did not give a hand [to protect them], we believe the Assyrian and Syriac Christians will not make the mistake again to turn against the YPG.”
Militants released some Assyrian hostages but told them they could not return to their homes. One of them, only known as Robert, told media outlets the majority planned to move to Lebanon. ISIS also released a video of an alleged Assyrian who converted to Islam. The militants have not confirmed if he voluntarily converted or if the group forced him.
Those persecuted under ISIS, whether they are Christians, Yazidis, or Muslims, all beg the world to come to their aid. Not much has happened, especially since the United Nations concluded the abuses “may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.” They claim investigators thoroughly evaluated all the evidence. Yet, evidence surfacing throughout the past year proves ISIS is guilty of war crimes and genocide.