The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham conducted a terrorist attack in the city of Qamishli (Beṯ Zālin), a large city of al-Hasakah province in the northeast corner of Syria. The deadly blast was the product of a truck bomb, wounding more than 100 people and killing dozens. The attack took place on the headquarters of a local police center held by Kurdish forces.
Under the umbrella of the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish militia that has been capturing land occupied by ISIS, the Kurds have expanded their territorial reach and inched closer to Raqqa, the de facto capitol of the Islamic State.
ISIS and its radical Wahhabi ideology are the greatest threat to the people of Syria, Iraq, and increasingly the rest of the region and world. Our sympathies are with the Kurdish men and women who lost their lives in this terror attack.
The misrepresentation of the city of Qamishli, however, should be noted. The terrorist attack was so deadly, it warranted the stories written about it in the BBC, Reuters, and other international media outlets. Those stories misrepresented Qamishli however, recording it as a Kurdish city, giving no background on the city or its history. Too often it is mislabeled as “Kurdish”. Ignoring the other inhabitants has political ramifications locally and abroad.
In fact, Qamishli has within it Kurdish militias, Syrian government forces, and Christian militias. is a highly important city to its non-Kurdish inhabitants, who may now make up only a significant minority, but in the past were the majority of the city’s residents. In ancient and recent times, Qamishli (Beṯ Zālin) was known for its thriving Assyrian and Armenian Christian populations. Which is why it was no surprise when last month a memorial was open in the city to commemorate the Assyrian/Armenian/Greek genocide of Christians at the hands of Turks and Kurds starting in the collapsing years of the Ottoman Empire and morphing into a repression from the Turkish and Iraqi states.
ISIS attacks against Qamishli’s Christian populations have been fierce, burning churches, stealing the donations of church collection boxes, and the attempted assassination of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch. Sootoro , a Christian militia operating in the region, have been under attack by both ISIS and Kurds. ISIS seeks to root out Christianity from the region, while Kurds hope to stamp out any autonomy for the Assyrian/Syriac/Armenian population, hoping for Hasakeh to become a de facto part of their own future ethno-nationalist state.
We can grieve another terror attack against the city of Qamishli. All of it’s residents have suffered greatly at the hands of ISIS. We also are in need of a renewed interest in the destruction of Christian communities in the region (Assyrians, Syriacs, Armenians, and Greeks), and Qamishli, Northern Syria, and Northern Iraq especially. The political designs of the Kurds and the terrorists are a threat to Christianity in the region.
The assault on Christian minorities comes from both Islamists like ISIS, and Kurdish ethnic-nationalism. If Christian communities in the Middle East are to be preserved in the 21st century, more action has to be taken on behalf of the Christians. The communities are in need of stronger and better-trained self-defense forces, political representation, and financial aid, if they are to thrive in the lands of their ancestors.