US 'ignored appeals for help from Syrian Christians'

US 'ignored appeals for help from Syrian Christians'
Syriac representative tells al-Araby al-Jadeed that US was told of impending attacks on defenceless villages by the IS group but received the reply: "No promises - wait and we will contact you".
3 min read
27 February, 2015
The US was warned of attacks on Syriacs as it focused on Kobane [Getty/AFP]

The US military did not act to prevent Islamic State group attacks on Syriac Christian villages in Syria despite repeated warnings by the community and appeals for help, a representative has told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Robert Gabriel, a lobbyist for the New Jersey-based American Syriac Union, said that he had held dozens of meetings since September with US officials to relay "our people's concern inside Syria of the imminent IS attack on our villages" near the city of Hasakeh. 

"We sent them emails, called, met, we told them Kobane now, our villages later," said Gabriel, in reference to the northern Kurdish Syrian town that had been besieged by the IS last year. What he was told in reply was "no promises, nothing - only wait and we will contact you".

"The IS had been raiding territory outside our villages for months, burning fields and destroying houses. Three weeks ago, IS militants showed up in Tell Hormizd, told people that they should convert to Islam and burned their crops."
The US-led alliance began bombing the IS positions this week after the group attacked a chain of 35 villages, home to about 30,000 Assyrian Christians, outside Hasakeh.

     We sent them emails, called, met, we told them Kobane now, our villages later.
Robert Gabriel, US-based Syriac lobbyist

Reports indicated that the IS had so far occupied 11 villages and abducted more than 400 Christians including women and children.

The Assyrian Network for Human Rights (ASNHR) reported on Friday that IS was moving its hostages to the town of Umm al-Masamir, which it controls, had burned houses in Tal Jazeera and a church in Tal Shamiram.

Fighting has forced civilians to flee, with many heading to for the city of Qamishli, which is controlled by the Kurdish YPG forces, and Christian and tribal forces.

Gabriel told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the Syriac community's situation was desperate, and they needed more than airstrikes.

"We have a lot of volunteers, but we lack arms and equipment. All we can get are the AK47s from the black market. ISIS have tanks and artillery which makes us no match. If IS takes Tal Hormizd, it will surround Hasakeh.

"Airstrikes cannot help defend a line 40km long while the ground force consists of fighters with Kalashnikovs only when IS come with tanks."

The Syriac forces have been assembled with the help of Yohan Cosar, a Swiss-born reservist sergeant whose parents had emigrated from Syria to Switzerland. He has been fighting in Syria since 2013.

US officials have not commented on Gabriel's statements. However John Allen, a US general and envoy in the anti-IS alliance, told the US Senate on February 19 that the US was "working closely with regional partners to establish sites for training and equipping vetted, moderate Syrian opposition elements, to train approximately 5,000 troops per year for the next three years".

Fred Hoff, a senior US diplomat on Syria until December 2012, said: "A train-and-equip effort aimed at producing 15,000 Syrian personnel over three years seems to lack the requisite urgency and heft. Chasing armed criminals with F-16s and F-18s is not the way to win."

- additional reporting by Rami Sweid.