Tag Archives: Christian

#Egypt: Christian teens jailed for ‘contempt of Islam’

An Egyptian protester condemns sectarian clashes in Cairo, Egypt, in 2013. (AP)

A judge in the central Egyptian province of Minya also sent a fourth defendant, aged 15, to a juvenile detention center for an indefinite period.

Defence lawyer Maher Naguib said the four had not intended to insult Islam in the video, but merely to mock the beheadings carried out by ISIS militants.

The video was filmed on a mobile phone in January 2015 when the three teenagers who were sentenced to five years were aged between 15 and 17.

The four had not yet been arrested as of Thursday and Naguib said he planned to appeal the judgement.

“They have been sentenced for contempt of Islam and inciting sectarian strife,” Naguib told AFP.

“The judge didn’t show any mercy. He handed down the maximum punishment.”

In the video, one teenager can be seen kneeling on the ground and reciting Muslim prayers while others stand behind him, laughing.

Christian female fighters take on ISIS in #Syria

 Babylonia has no regrets about leaving behind her two children and her job as a hairdresser to join a Christian female militia battling against the Islamic State group in Syria.
The fierce-looking 36-year-old in fatigues from the Syriac Christian minority in the northeast believes she is making the future safe for her children.
“I miss Limar and Gabriella and worry that they must be hungry, thirsty and cold. But I try to tell them I’m fighting to protect their future,” she told AFP.
Babylonia belongs to a small, recently created battalion of Syriac Christian women in Hasakeh province who are fighting IS.
They are following in the footsteps of Syria’s other main female force battling the jihadists — the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG.
So far the new force is small, with around 50 graduates so far from its training camp in the town of Al-Qahtaniyeh, also known as Kabre Hyore in Syriac, and Tirbespi in Kurdish.
But the “Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers” — the area between the Tigris and Euphrates waterways historically inhabited by Syriacs — is teeming with women eager to prove their worth against IS.
It was actually Babylonia’s husband who encouraged her to leave Limar, nine, and six-year-old Gabriella and join the unit whose first recruits graduated in August.
Himself a fighter, he urged her to take up arms to “fight against the idea that the Syriac woman is good for nothing except housekeeping and make-up”, she said.
‘Fear quickly went away’
“I’m a practicing Christian and thinking about my children makes me stronger and more determined in my fight against Daesh,” added Babylonia, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
Syriac Christians belong to the eastern Christian tradition and pray in Aramaic. They include both Orthodox and Catholic branches, and constitute around 15 percent of Syria’s 1.2 million Christians.
Before the conflict began in March 2011, Christians from some 11 different sects made up around five percent of the population.
The unit’s first major action was alongside the newly created Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish, Arab and Christian fighters, which recently recaptured the strategic town of Al-Hol.
“I took part in a battle for the first time in the Al-Hol area, but my team wasn’t attacked by IS,” said 18-year-old Lucia, who gave up her studies to join the militia.
Her sister also joined up, against the wishes of their reluctant mother.
“I fight with a Kalashnikov, but I’m not ready to become an elite sniper yet,” the shy teenager said, a wooden crucifix around her neck and a camouflage bandana tied round her head.
Al-Hol, on a key route between territory IS controls in Syria and Iraq, was the first major victory for the SDF, which has captured around 200 villages in the region in recent weeks.
It has received air support from the US-led coalition fighting IS, as well as drops of American weapons.
Ormia, 18, found battle terrifying at first.
“I was afraid of the noise of cannons firing, but the fear quickly went away,” she said.
“I would love to be on the front line in the fight against the terrorists.”
‘Not afraid of Daesh’
The battalion’s fighters train in an old mill in a program that includes military, fitness and academic elements.
With its limited combat experience, the unit for now focuses mainly on protecting majority Christian parts of Hasakeh province.
Thabirta Samir, 24, who helps oversee the training, estimates that around 50 fighters have graduated so far.
“I used to work for a Syriac cultural association, but now I take pleasure in working in the military field,” she said.
“I’m not afraid of Daesh, and we will be present in the coming battles against the terrorists.”
Samir said both local and “foreign forces” helped train the women, without specifying the nationality of the foreigners.
In late November, Kurdish sources said US soldiers had entered the town of Kobane in northern Syria to train Kurdish fighters and plan offensives.
Some women cited what is known as the Sayfo (“Sword”) massacres in 1915 of Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians as reasons for joining the unit.
“We are a community that is oppressed by others,” said 18-year-old Ithraa. She joined four months ago inspired by the memory of Sayfo, in which Ottoman authorities are said to have killed tens of thousands of Christians in Turkey and Iran.
She said the community hoped to prevent “a new massacre like that committed by the Ottomans… when they tried to erase our Christian and Syriac identity”.

#Syria: Christian town in peril asks for arms after ISIS advance

Saddad. (image via All4Syria.info)

 

Albin Szakola & Ullin Hope

BEIRUT – ISIS has dealt a blow to regime forces by recapturing the town of Maheen outside Syria’s mountainous Qalamoun region, raising fears once again in a nearby government-controlled Assyrian Christian town.

 

On Friday morning, Sadad residents asked to be provided with “heavy weapons” shortly after reports emerged that ISIS had stormed into Maheen, which lies 13 kilometers to the southeast.

 

“We ask all concerned, honorable and caring people to think seriously about supporting the town with heavy weaponry that will allow us to stand up to any attack,” a pro-regime Facebook page based in the town said.

 

“The matter is very urgent,” the Sadad New Net stressed.

 

The local news page explained that light weapons were of no use in “open, desert areas against vehicle born bomb attacks,” in reference to ISIS’s preferred tactic of using car bombings against fixed positions in the initial stages of offensives.

 

GPF

Gozarto Protection Force militiamen in Sadad. (Twitter/@GozartoPF)

 

ISIS previously advanced on Sadad in early November, however the group’s offensive was stymied after Russia airlifted members of the Assyrian Gozarto Protection Force (GPF) militia from the northeastern Hasakeh province to reinforce defensive positions in the town.

 

After deploying in the Assyrian town, the GPF insisted on November 9 that it would remain in Sadad “until its safe” and called on residents to return.

 

Two weeks later after the Syrian regime retook nearby Maheen from ISIS, the GPF announced its fighters were returning to Qamishli as Sadad was “fully secured.”

 

Around the same time Russia transported the GPF fighters into Sadad, a televised Russian Defense Ministry briefing indicated that Moscow might also have deployed an artillery brigade in the area.

 

On November 17, Russian TV showed a map that listed the Russian army’s 120th artillery brigade as being deployed outside Maheen.

 

ISIS storms back into Maheen

 

An image published Thursday by the ISIS-affiliated Amaq news purports to show the arms depots the group claimed to have seized.

 

Despite confidence among regime ranks following its reversal of ISIS’s early November offensive, the extremist group struck back and again changed the tide of the see-saw battles the southeast Homs region has seen.

 

“ISIS has managed to advance and recapture the town of Maheen and the village of Hiwarayn in southeastern Homs countryside,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported early Friday afternoon.

 

“Clashes are still ongoing between regime forces and pro-regime militants on [one side] and ISIS [on the other] in the area around [the two settlements] amid fierce bombing on areas in both,” the monitoring NGO added.

 

Earlier Friday, ISIS issued a statement announcing that its fighters had seized a number of positions, including the Jabal al-Kabir and Jabal al-Saghir mountains, which overlook the town, “in a surprise attack.”

 

“The soldiers of the caliphate were able to reestablish control over all of the positions, kill a number of Nusairis [a pejorative term for Alawites] and plunder an amount of ammunition and light weapons, leaving the Nusairis in the town of Maheen under fire by the soldiers of the caliphate,” the extremist group boasted.

 

Pro-regime Masdar News also reported that ISIS had retaken Maheen following a “massive counter-offensive.”

 

Regime forces backed by Russian airstrikes wrested Maheen—a majority Sunni-populated town—from ISIS control on November 23 following two-days of fierce battles.

 

The extremist group had originally seized Maheen on November 1 in a renewed offensive in the region near the vital M-5 highway linking Homs to the Syrian capital.

 

ISIS advanced into the region in early August after routing pro-regime forces in nearby Qaryatayn, a mixed-Christian Muslim oasis town situated on the edge of the Syrian semi-desert, where ISIS maintains a strong presence.