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Report: Christians are “the biggest victims of demographic change” in Turkey’s controlled areas of Syria

Christians in Syria find themselves the biggest victims of the “demographic change” that Turkey is pursuing in secret under the cover of “threats” facing Turkish national security.

A report from the website of the ” The Tablet ” organization states that the military escalation by Turkey and its allies is pushing the remaining Christians to flee and preventing others from returning to their homes and properties.

Christian leaders in Syria say the Turkish escalation is targeting Christians and other minorities.

According to the report, “the forced displacement of minorities in northern Syria is a priority for Turkey.” There are methods used by Turkey-backed extremist groups to prevent the return of Christians and other residents to northern Syria. 

The report quotes Sennacherib Barsoum, head of the Syriac Union Party, “These groups seized homes, lands and properties of the residents who fled about two years ago when the Turkish army invaded the area in 2019”.

“This is a systematic displacement, and in the presence of these groups, nothing encourages the displaced to return to their homes,” he added.

He continues, “We know Turkey’s policy of demographic change. This has already been done before in Afrin and other cities, and it is now being implemented in Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain through pro-Turkish groups.”

Speaking to the site, Nadine Manza, chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, said: “The Turkish occupation of lands in northern Syria continues to pose a serious threat, not only to the vulnerable religious minorities in that region, but also to the autonomous administration of northern and eastern Syria itself.”

“Turkey and groups allied with it, or supported by Ankara, have specifically targeted Christians and Kurds to change the demographics of northern Syria,” Manza added.

The report notes that before the civil war in 2011, there were more than 130,000 Christians residing in northern Syria, a number that has drastically reduced to hundreds or a few thousand people now.

And some villages controlled by pro-Turkish organizations became empty of Christians.

According to the data of the report, there were 100 families in Ras al-Ain and 120 families in Tal Abyad before 2019, but these families have now disappeared, and since 2015 about 35 Christian villages have now become deserted.

On Tuesday, the Turkish parliament renewed for two years the government’s mandate to carry out “cross-border” military operations in Syria against the Islamic State and any group deemed “terrorist” by Ankara, in reference to Kurdish forces.

The Turkish army has been deployed in Syria since 2016 in the northwest of the country around Afrin and the Idlib region, which is controlled by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra) and opposition fighting factions.

Ankara and its loyal Syrian factions launched three large-scale operations in recent years (2016-2017 and 2018 October 2019) along its border with Syria, where a large number of Kurds live, to expel the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which Ankara considers to be An extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, but backed by the United States.

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