Syria: Christian Militia to the Rescue as 1000s of Christians flee ISIL approach

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Despite Russian airstrikes, Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) has made some advances in November. One place it has had some success is Homs province, which is vulnerable because Daesh has a position in Palmyra. At the beginning of November, Daesh took Maheen and advanced toward the major Christian town of Sadad. The Syrian Arab Army has barely been able to fend off the Daesh advance ever since.

Now, a Christian militia has been tapped by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to reinforce the Syrian army’s attempt to keep Sadad from falling to the phony caliphate.

Thousands of Christians are fleeing Sadad, since they have seen how brutally Daesh deals with Christians. (This behavior is contrary to the Qur’an and traditions of Islamic law that see Christians as a ‘protected community.’) As many as 15,000 have left. Independent Catholic News reports that the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Homs and Hama remarked: “We are afraid that ISIS… will conquer the town. [If so], we would lose the centre of Christianity in our diocese.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 4.22.09 AM
Via Google Maps

Christian sources say that Daesh leaders want to take Sadad in part for symbolic reasons, to show that they are sweeping away non-Muslim elements, and had threatened genocide against the Christians of Sadad. They held it briefly in 2013 and killed 35 Christians at that time.

Father Luka Awad, Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh’s assistant for emergency aid, said that Sadad was strategic as a gateway to the road that links Damascus and Homs, which is why Daesh wants it. “Once [Daesh] have conquered Sadad, they will be that much closer to Homs. And the area also has oil . . . The people there still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. We have important churches there. It is really a centre of our Christian heritage. Its loss doesn’t bear contemplating. We are truly fearing for our cultural heritage. We beg the international community to put an end to this war.”

The Syrian regime has responded by moving dozens of volunteers from the Christian militia in Hasaka in the northeast, Sootoro, to the hinterland of Homs. They will support the militia of the Syrian National Socialist Party (SNSP), which had been forced out of Maheen and which is now defending Sadad. The Christian militia in the northeast consists of good fighters, who played a central role in expelling Daesh from Hasakah. The Sootoro fighters are being flown out in troop transport planes from the airport at Qamishli.

The Russian Air Force has flown 15 sorties against Daesh positions in the Homs area, but Daesh has nevertheless established a presence in the outskirts of Sadad.

If Daesh does take Sadad, it will be within striking distance of cutting the Damascus/ Homs road.

Related video added by Juan Cole:

ISIS closing in on Christian town of Sadad, Syria

6 Responses

  1. Russian is not bombing ISIS, Juan, and except for a limited number of bombing raids, notwithstanding Russian propaganda to the contrary

    Rather Russia is bombing those rebel groups to the west of ISIS held territory which are pressuring the Assad government.

    You keep missing this point.

    • I don’t see you providing any info that would negate any of the Professor’s comments.

      Russia has been providing the SAA air support for its campaigns – since the SAA has been more interested in fighting non-ISIS groups because those groups hold territory that is more strategically dangerous to the regime, the Russian have been bombing non-ISIS groups more heavily. But the professor is pointing to ISIS conducting operations against SAA held areas, something the regime is obviously going to fight, and thus call in Russian air support.

      So the one missing the point of this post is you.

    • If I understand correctly, and I certainly may not, the more or less socialist Assad regime goes back to the time Bashar’s father took power. Since at least then, i.e., for decades, Syria has been a Soviet/Russian ally in the Middle East.

      Father and son seem both to have clung to the Arab socialist tradition which must ring bells with a former KGB colonel if not in Washington. What the Russians are doing is perfectly natural, especially given their naval base on the Mediterranean. They are protecting an old friend and ally.

      I don’t see much if anything which should matter in that to the US. We’re confronted with dubious choices there because we chose sides and intervened militarily. The complete rationale for that has not been explained to the American People. Do we really have a dog in the ISIS fight? I wish someone could articulate it, explaining and differentiating Israel’s interests and our own.

  2. Alec,

    As a German I lived in the US for a while but then left for Canada, because I couldn’t stand the American political climate. So I don’t have any particular allegiance.

    But to equate the democratically challenged US with these utterly authoritarian regimes goes beyond false equivalency, or illuminating hyperbole.

    Assad is about as democratically elected as Lukashenko in Belarus.

    What you contend is that there is no civil recourse for a movement like “Black Lives Matter” to succeed by peaceful means. If the US was a regime than only violence could hope to achieve anything.

    Your logic is that of civil war and utter societal collapse. No good will come of it.

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