The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Hassaka-Nisibi has accused Turkey of preventing Christians from fleeing Syria to safety across the Turkish border, two days after Islamic State militants abducted at least 96 people. They lived in a cluster of villages in northeast Syria which had been under the control of Syrian Kurdish forces.
Bishop Jacques Behnan Hindo told Vatican Radio on Feb. 25 “Every day, families are emigrating from Damascus by plane because of the blockade we have around us,” reported Agence France-Presse.
“In the north, Turkey allows through lorries, Daesh (IS) fighters, oil stolen from Syria, wheat and cotton. All of these can cross the border, but nobody [from the Christian community] can pass over.”
The kidnapped Christians are part of Syria’s 30,000 Assyrian community, concentrated mostly in Hassaka province near the Turkish border. The BBC reports that the Syriac National Council of Syria has put the figure as high as 150, while Afram Yakoub of the Assyrian Federation of Sweden said sources on the ground told him that up to 285 people were missing, including 156 from the village of Tal Shamran and 90 from Tal al-Jazira.