30 June 2015
In this image from March, displaced Assyrians who fled the villages around Tel Tamer gather outside the Assyrian Church in Hassake as they wait for news about abductees kidnapped by ISIS. The city of Hassake is now under siege, and Christians there are seeking refuge
in nearby cities. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)
While I’m working in Erbil this week among the refugees in Kurdistan, I’m also monitoring developments in Hassake in northern Syria.
It’s estimated that that about 1,300 Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac families have been displaced from Hassake and have fled to the nearby city of Qamishli. Most of them are being housed in churches, schools, and monasteries; some are in the homes of host families. A number of other families have fled to the towns of Tel Tamer and Derbassiyeh.
In the wake of the latest attack by ISIS on Hassake city on Wednesday 24 June, the terrorist organization was able to gain control of the Al Nashwa neighborhood south of the city. Clashes are still ongoing between members of ISIS and government forces backed by militias.
It’s not accurate to say that the situation is similar to what happened in Mosul — mainly because the fighting is still going on and it is fierce; in Mosul, the area was occupied without any local resistance and without any real fighting.
In Hassake we have different parties involved in fighting ISIS. In addition to the Syrian regular army, the Kurdish fighters and local inhabitants of Sunni Arab nomad clans (al Shouaytat family) are also fighting on the side of the Syrian troops.
This Sunni clan is one of the largest in northern Syria. Last year, they lost about 925 young men. The men opposed ISIS occupying their region, and the militants executed them all within three days.
CNEWA has already rushed funds for the displaced Christians of the city, and is working with partners on the ground to respond to the growing needs of the families in flight.
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