Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Independent on the Plight of Syria's Christians

The plight of Syria's Christians: 'We left Homs because they were trying to kill us'

 By Kim Sengupta  

   The red Mitsubishi Lancer GT with "go faster" stripes was a source of great pride to Hamlig Bedrosian. It was the only one of its kind in the city, pointed out on the streets as he roared along, an object of admiration and envy among his friends in Aleppo.

The car may have been the reason why the 23-year-old student was ambushed and taken hostage, along with a female friend, as they were travelling to a shopping complex. The revolutionary fighters with Kalashnikovs who led them away subjected Mr Bedrosian – blindfolded and tied up – to savage beatings and threats of execution before the pair was finally freed in exchange for a ransom.
Or there may have been a different reason for the attack: they were targeted by the Sunni Muslim rebels because they were Christians. Mr Bedrosian did not wait long to find out, leaving – along with his brother – for Lebanon. Others from the Syrian Armenian community followed, abandoning their homes.

The Haddad family had no doubts about why they had to escape from Homs. "We left because they were trying to kill us," said 18-year-old Noura Haddad. She is now staying with relations in the town of Zahle in the Bekaa Valley. "They wanted to kill us because we were Christians. They were calling us Kaffirs, even little children saying these things. Those who were our neighbours turned against us.
"At the end, when we ran away, we went through balconies. We did not even dare go out on the street in front of our house. I've kept in touch with the few Christian friends left back home, but I cannot speak to my Muslim friends any more. I feel very sorry about that."

Mr Bedrosian and Ms Haddad are among thousands who have left Syria as the 20 month-long civil war gets increasingly vicious and increasingly sectarian. The prospect of reconciliation between the Alawites, from which the ruling elite are drawn, and the overwhelmingly Sunni opposition, gets more remote by the day after each round of strife. But now it is the Christians, who have largely sought to remain neutral, who are on the receiving end of abuse and attacks. For many, the choice now is between leaving the country or risking an uncertain and hazardous future.


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