Syriac Christians see Turkey’s safe zone plans as an existential threat

19 May 2019

Syriac Christians, a religious group in Syria, reject the creation of a safe zone Turkey plans to establish in northern Syria due to Ottoman atrocities in the past, sociologist Amy Austin Holmes said in the U.S.-based magazine National Interest on Thursday.

The community which includes Syriac, Assyrian, Chaldean, and Armenian Christians, describe themselves as “descendants of survivors” of a 1915 massacre of the Ottoman Empire, which historian Joseph Yacoub refers to as a “hidden genocide.”

Turkey promises to bring security in the region by a safe zone to be established along the Turkish border, which will prioritise clearing off the area from Kurdish militia, which Ankara sees as a national security threat.

But the possibility of a Turkish controlled safe zone, which will encompass all of the hometowns of Syriac Christians, disturbs the community, who has not forgotten the persecution they suffered at the hands of the Ottomans a century ago, according to Austin Holmes.

“Instead of inducing a sense of safety, the idea of deploying Turkish troops in their homeland rekindles memories of the trauma their community has suffered before,” she said.

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