Mass evacuations, catastrophic refugee problem looming for region.
Syrian Christians are being given ultimatums by military commanders of the nation’s opposition movement to leave their homes, prompting what observers say is a form of ethnic cleansing.
The demands come from the Sunni opposition, whose leaders are seeking the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is Alawite, an offshoot of the Shiites, G2Bulletin has learned.
The Assad regime generally has protected the Christians, and some serve as senior officials in the government. While many Christians regard the Assad regime as repressive and want an open, democratic, inclusive and religiously tolerant society, they realize that there will be no such developments with a change of regime.
Instead, they believe Assad is the only guarantor of secularism in Syria, under which Christians and Muslims both have rights.
With the demonstrations and increasing violence, however, Christians and other minorities in the country face threats by the predominant Sunni population, which is more radical and seeks the exit of non-Sunnis.
As a result, the Christians, who make up some 10 percent of the 22 million Syrian population, have shown support for the existing Syrian government, much to the consternation of the opposition, which increasingly is being infiltrated by al-Qaida and other Islamic fundamentalist groups.
Among those is the Muslim Brotherhood, which considers the Christians to be infidels. As a result of the ultimatums, Christians are being forced from their home towns and the surrounding countryside, where they are strong and are taking refuge with friends and family in Damascus.
In turn, sources say the opposition has confiscated their goods and property, burned down churches, committed executions and launched what now amounts to a sectarian war.
This kind of targeting of Christians is reminiscent of the brutal treatment they received in Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of Christians fled Islamist militants following the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Saddam, like Assad, protected the Christian minority. Indeed, his foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, identified as a Christian and had appealed to the Vatican to protect his life following Saddam’s ouster.
Aziz is serving a life sentence in Iraq.
The United States, which saw similar action in Iraq toward the Christians, has been largely silent about such practices against Syrian Christians by the opposition, which it supports.