URGENT APPEAL TO MEDIA, POLITICIANS, EMBASSIES AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
The burial of Aramean martyr Gabi Henry Daoud has attracted hundreds of Arameans and others in Qamishli, Syria
The Christians of Syria are under attack yet again. However, this time from those who until now have been perceived as victims themselves – the Kurds. In a shocking move, Kurdish YPG forces have unleashed a wave of ongoing intimidations, threats and assaults on the final remaining Aramean Christians in northeast Syria. The WCA condemns this campaign of terror against a vulnerable minority and calls upon the media, politicians and human rights organizations to speak out and help to cease the policy of covert demographic engineering.
RECENT CHRISTIAN KILLINGS
On Monday, 11 January 2016, Kurdish YPG fighters killed Gabriel Henry Daoud (photo below) and injured a fellow member of the Aramean protection unit “Sootoro” in Qamishli, northeastern Syria, bordering the town of Nusaybin in southeast Turkey. Witnesses stated that these forces drove up to the checkpoint at the Christian district of al-Wusta and suddenly opened gunfire against unsuspecting Sootoro guards. This surprise attack follows from the 30 December 2015 bombings where 13 Christians (nine Arameans and four Armenians) were killed in Qamishli. Unconfirmed ISIS sources initially claimed responsibility for supposed suicide bombings of Café Gabriel, Miami Restaurant and the area nearby a local church. However, witnesses have confirmed that bags filled with explosives were placed there by unknown men and that a fourth bomb was defused prior to detonation; no suicide attacks ever took place. As a result, Sootoro increased the security measures by setting up safety checkpoints. Recently Kurdish forces demanded to lift these checkpoints and later attacked the one at al-Wusta. Local sources state that this assault, the growing tensions and other alarming developments feed the suspicion that Kurdish YPG forces may have been involved in, if not responsible for, the recent bomb attacks in Qamishli.
KURDS NOT INNOCENT
In the West, the Kurds are often seen as a stateless people who, as defenseless victims at the hands of Turks and Arabs, deserve their own country in northern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeast Turkey. Moreover, since they are nowadays valued as an ally in the fight against ISIS, this innocent people receives weapons and other kinds of support from Western countries. What is less known, however, is the following inconvenient truth that hardly receives any media attention or publicity.
In recent years, the Kurds of northeast Syria have propagated this area as Rojava (“Western Kurdistan”), aiming for autonomy, if not an independent state of Kurdistan that ultimately has to merge with Iraqi Kurdistan and even southeast Turkey, which they recently declared autonomous. In reality, the Kurdish people are originally from Iran and their language belongs to the Northwestern Iranian family. Few are aware that, in particular in the last century, the Kurds have played a critical role in cleansing southeast Turkey and northern Iraq from the native Aramean population. And few dare to mention or publish about the similar clandestine policy of Kurdification in northeast Syria today.
The YPG is the military branch of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), an influential political party of the Syrian Kurds that is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). As the PKK in the 1990s organized, funded and steered some Arameans in southeast Turkey, so does the PYD apply these same divide-and-rule tactics in Syria. Out of Sootoro, the PYD has a small group of dissidents on its payroll and under its command that is also called “Sutoro” which, not surprisingly, has not released a statement after the last assault; their armed forces outside Qamishli are known as the “Syriac Military Council.”
On 2 November 2015, 16 Christian organizations issued a statement that condemned the Kurdification of northeast Syria by the PYD. The intended transformation of this part of Syria into Kurdistan included the enforcement of the Kurdish language and of curricula in schools; enforcing special taxes on and recruitment of non-Kurds; occupation of Aramean owned buildings, etc. In June 2014 and October 2015, Human Rights Watch reported a number of YPG crimes, including but not limited to forced displacement, demolition of homes and the seizure and destruction of property.
INDIGENOUS ARAMEAN CHRISTIANS ARE THE REAL VICTIMS
Historically, northeastern Syria was never the home of Kurds nor part of a geographical area called Kurdistan. The WCA denounces this form of irredentism, which annexes our lands to this non-existing state. The deplorable fact that Arameans were forced to leave their homeland is now being exploited, in the same manner witnessed in southeast Turkey and north Iraq, where Arameans also were the majority in their homelands before they were decimated and driven out. Since 2011, about 70% of Qamishli’s Arameans have fled, with some 4,000 Aramean families (members of the Syriac Orthodox & Catholic, Chaldean and Assyrian Churches) left behind amidst a total population of a few hundred thousand.
If any population would be legally and historically entitled to autonomy or independence, it would be Syria’s indigenous Arameans. In antiquity, Syria (the Greek and Roman term for the originally Semitic name Aram) was the home of Aramean kingdoms well-known from the Bible, of the Aramaic language and literature, of the formation of early Eastern Christianity, etc. Qamishli itself, which still has an Aramean mayor, was founded in 1926 by Arameans when they fled newly-born Turkey.
LET US BUILD SYRIA’S FUTURE TOGETHER
The Arameans have become a vulnerable minority, even a threatened community, in their homeland. Hence we appeal to our fellow Syrians, including Syrian Kurds, and to governments around the world:
- Let us all – Arabs, Kurds and Arameans – realize that in ISIS and other jihadist groups we have a common enemy threatening our lives, and therefore we cannot permit ourselves to fight and weaken each other’s independent People’s Protection Units;
- Let us – led by justice, dignity and equality – seek reconciliation, peaceful resolutions for different views and the harmonious co-existence of different ethno-religious groups;
- Let us protect the territorial integrity of Syria, restore its secular character and re-establish its unique mosaic of ethnicities, cultures and languages rather than pursuing individual political agendas and secessionist aspirations;
- Let us call for a new Constitution of Syria that protects and values all of its people as equal citizens, guaranteeing their individual and collective rights, while not shying away from the debate on the type of State we envisage for our beloved homeland.