Over a hundred church attacks in Syria since start of civil war

Published 12 September 2019  |  
Reuters
A church lies in ruins in the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo

The long-running conflict in Syria is taking a terrible toll on the country's people but a new report reveals the tragic scale of the damage being done to its historic churches too.

A new report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) says that there have been at least 124 attacks on Christian places of worship between March 2011 and September 2019.

The report counted as an attack any bombing of a church or appropriation of the building for use as a military base.

SNHR, which is based in Qatar, blamed the majority of these attacks on government forces as it accused President Bashar al-Assad of "fomenting and exploiting sectarianism", and being "indifferent" to the damage being inflicted on its ancient churches.

The report said: "Despite places of worship being designated as cultural and religious properties that should be protected, heavy and continuous aerial bombardment across Syria has resulted in the partial or total destruction of a large number of places of worship."

It added: "Targeting of Christian places of worship is a form of intimidation against and displacement of the Christian minority in Syria."

The report claims that the Assad regime was behind at least 75 separate attacks carried out on 48 churches in the eight years since the civil war began.

Thirty-three attacks against 21 churches were attributed to rebel groups and the Islamic State was found to be repsonsible for 10 attacks on eight churches.

A further two church attacks were attributed to al-Qaeda offshoot, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.

"The Syrian regime has always invoked good slogans, but on the ground it has done the opposite," said Fadel Abdul Ghany, SNHR chairman.

"While the regime claims that it has not committed any violations, and that it is keen on protecting the Syrian state and the rights of minorities, it has carried out qualitative operations in suppressing and terrorizing all those who sought political change and reform, regardless of religion or race, and of whether this causes the destruction of the heritage of Syria and the displacement of its minorities.

"Syria will not become calm without transition to democracy and respect for human rights."

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