At least 63 Syrian churches attacked since 2011

At least 63 Syrian churches attacked since 2011
Syrian Network for Human Rights report says regime was the top violator, but Nusra, IS and other opposition groups were also responsible for attacks.
3 min read
01 May, 2015
Churches have not been spared the war in Syria (Getty)

A total of 63 Syrian churches have been targeted at the hands of the regime, opposition groups and the Islamic State group since March 2011, the Syrian Network for Human Rights has said.

A further 11 churches have been converted to military or administrative headquarters.

"Christians and Christian places of worship have suffered like all other Syrians," said Wael al-Aji, a spokesman for the UK-based network. "Scuds, toxic gases and barrel bombs do not discriminate between the followers of one faith and those of another."

"After the emergence and growth of radical groups, Christians suffered abuses of another kind, and are now caught in the crossfire between government forces and radical groups," al-Aji added.

According a report released by the network, government forces were the top violator, shelling two-thirds of the monastries and churches that came under attack in the conflict.

The Assad regime targeted 40 churches, including 12 that came under repeated assault, including the Our Lady of Peace Church in Homs, which was attacked six times, and the St Mary Church of the Holy Belt, also in Homs, which was targeted on four occasions.

The network's director, Fadel Abdul Ghani, said the rate of attacks had increased.

"In our previous report published in December 2012, we documented how government forces targeted 19 churches," Abdul Ghani said. "Now we observe that the figure has doubled."

Abdul Ghani said that repeated attacks on some churches indicated they were being deliberately targeted.

The report stated that IS attacked six churches in Raqqa and Hasakah provinces, as well as converting two other churches into military and administrative buildings.

     Abdul Ghani said that repeated attacks on some churches indicated they were being deliberately targeted.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front also targeted one church, as well as a number of other churches that had been converted by the government into military headquarters. The group also turned the monastry of St Simeon in Aleppo into a military base.

The mainstream armed opposition was also responsible for attacks on churches, with 14 attacks noted in the report, as well as the conversion of two churches into military and administrative buildings.

"Updating this study took nearly five months under difficult circumstances, most notably due to the lack of interest within the local community regarding the need to document damages to historic buildings when no victims are reported, amid the daily killing since March 2011," the report authors said.

"In addition, it is difficult to identify the party responsible, mainly because many churches are located along the frontlines and could come under attack from both sides."

The network noted that the true number of churches attacked could be far higher, in light of restrictions on movement and communication.

The report contained a number of recommendations addressed to the UN Security Council, stressing the need to put pressure on countries supporting the Syrian government, such as Russia and Iran.