In a recent visit as part of a humanitarian aid mission to Syria, Dr. John Eibner, CEO of Christian Solidarity International (CSI), met with a Syrian Christian man from the city of Qusayr who described the religious cleansing of his home by Islamic extremists.
According to CSI, before the civil war the city of Qusayr, located in eastern portion of Syria near the Lebanese border, had around 40,000 people, including 7,000 Christians.
“In late 2011, the Sunni townsmen came and told us to either join us in anti-regime demonstrations or leave the town. If we didn’t, we would be killed,” Fadul Abu Yohanna Kasouhah, a Christian resident of Qusayr, described to CSI.
According to Fadul, the Sunni Islamists in his village used the loudspeakers from the Mosques to name the Christian families by name and told them to leave.
Fadul told CSI how his cousin was gunned down by Sunni extremists for refusing to leave.
“My cousin Bater said, ‘We will not leave. This is our town, our land.’ He was recently married, and his wife was seven months pregnant. They shot him to death as he was going to work on his motorbike,” Fadul said.
Eventually, the local Sunni extremists were joined by foreign Islamic jihadists and cleansed the town of Christians, according to Fadul.
“In March 2012, many foreign jihadis came to Qusayr and surrounded Christian Street. They were joined by a mob of local Sunnis… The next day, all the Christians did leave Qusayr—870 families. Only two or three very old Christians stayed. Most left with nothing. No one helped us.”
According to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed as part of the conflict, while more than 1.7 million Syrians have been displaced.
Syrian Christians, who comprise 10 percent of Syria’s estimated population of 22 million, have been faced with a difficult situation due to the civil war. On one hand, many support the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But at the same time, under Assad they were a protected minority. Many Christians fear that if Assad is overthrown and replaced by Islamists, they will face greater persecution.