Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan– The deteriorating situation in Syria, caused by the three-year-old war, resulted in an apparent security vacuum in different areas across the country. Some Syrians chose to join the fight, while others were forced into the conflict, among them minority groups.
Due to the continuous clashes between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups, security vacuum prevailed in Syria’s northern areas, leading ethnic and religious minority groups to form armed militias to allegedly preserve civil peace in their cities and villages.
After the Democratic Union Party (PYD) formed Kurdish armed forces in north and northeastern Syria, Christians followed them in forming their own armed forces in northeastern Syria −areas where Kurds constitute a majority.
Christians could be preparing for the worst that the current conflict in Syria might bring to them and threaten their existence.
The attacks of al-Qaeda jihadists on areas where Christians exist is probably a major motivator to them to take up arms for self-defence and even cooperate with the Kurdish forces of the Popular Protection Units (YPG) to fight side by side for the alleged aim of maintaining peace and security of civilians in northeastern areas.
“Sutoro” (‘protection’ in Syriac) is the name under which dozens of young Christian men took up arms northeast of Syria. Sutoro militia was formed in the city of Qamishli in March 2013.
According to reports, a number of European Christians supervise the training of the Sutoro forces in specific areas in Qamishli city and are funded by international Christian organizations. Sutoro militia constitutes a small force comparing with the Kurdish YPG forces.
Christian Political Movement in Syria
The Syriac Union Party (SUP) and the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) are considered two major Christian political forces in Syria. Other forces include The Democratic Assyrian Party, the Christian Civil Assembly and other youth movements aligned with the course of developments in Syria.
The Syriac Union Party backs the Sutoro forces which in its turn subordinates to the so-called “Syriac Military Council”. The SUP has also participated in the recently founded PYD-led self-administration and was a member of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change.
On the other hand, the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) is a member of the Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary Forces and the Opposition (SNC) and unlike SUP it doesn’t support the Sutoro militia and hasn’t taken part in transitional government led by the PYD.
Christian Minority in Syria
Christians constitute approximately 9% of the Syrian population. While the intensity of their presence varies from one area to another, 20 percent of them live in the northeastern areas of Syria.
Christians in Syria are divided into several groups. The majority of them are Greek Orthodoxes. Christians are also divided into different ethnic groups, a fact which prevented the formation of a unified Christian stance regarding the conflict in Syria.
While most of the church leaders explicitly don’t support the Assad regime, most of the Christian organizations and political parties generally support the opposition forces. Reportedly, a number of Christian activists have been detained by the Syrian regime.
As a result of the current conflict, many Christians emigrated to western and neighbouring countries in a movement which was considered by observers as the biggest Christian migration since the end of the second world war.
Reporting by: Ehmed Herbi
Source: ARA News
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