Christians of Syria believe that “If the regime of President Bashar al-Assad fell down, Sunni will attack them,” this idea is rooted in their minds, since Christians see that their fate is linked to the presence of al-Assad in rule. This Obsession has been enhanced by the practices of militant wing in the “Free Syrian Army”, particularly in the villages of Koseir , alhmara rabli and aldimni in Homs.
Christians of Koseir who make up 20 percent of its population of about 50 thousand people, with the development of the crisis face a destiny similar to Palestinians in camps and they are caught between two fires.
However, the sensitivity between Muslims and Christians in Koseir was not an outcome of revolution; its roots go back to the seventies of the last century, as confirmed by one of the inhabitants of the village.
A Christian youth who speak on condition of anonymity said: “since Lebanese war in 1975, the residents of Koseir consider each Syrian Christian as a member of the Phalange Party in Lebanon”.
He added: ” the deadly mistake of Christians is that since the outbreak of the revolution, middle of March of 2010, some of them assured their loyalty to the Assad regime and were hostile to the revolution, despite the attempt other families to find some kind of balance by supporting the rebels.”
Every Friday, some of Christian youth used to capture photos for those who participated in the demonstrations against the regime, and send it to the security apparatus, which in turn tracked the demonstrators.
They used to inform the security forces of the regime about any
Suspects wanted by authorities, this made Muslims consider Christians as traitors.” Due to these practices, a curse and sectarian incitement grow against Christians.
This Christian youth does not ignore that during the first stages of revolution, there were patriotic slogans raised against the dictatorial regime .later on, the revolution deviated, expanding rift between Muslims and Christians. He says: “The regime was smart where it succeeded in deviating the revolution from its track, while sectarian figures within the revolution took advantage of that to put forward their extremist ideas.”
This rift was deepened by Al Kasouhha family, one of the biggest Christian families in Syria, who hold arms and fight with the regime.
Distinguished figures in Koseir did not accept that matter, they tried to contain the situation and mediate, demanding from Kasouhha family to stop helping the regime in following demonstrators. They also demanded that Kasouhha family Leave Koseir for six months and come back after the revolution ends. Kasouhha family refused , so the rebels killed a bother of this family (33 years) in a nearby village on August 25, 2010.
Kasouhha family threatened to revenge and have begun directing their fire towards Sunni neighborhoods.
In the meantime, Night demonstrations of the rebels continued, where the security forces fired shots in the air. Then young rebel attack the house Al Kasouhha , whose members established a checkpoint and intensified their activity with the Intelligence of the regime.
Another resident from Koseir said : ” al Kasouhha established a barrier and a checkpoint after rebels killed one of the sons of this family.”
Muslims Mediators tried to contain the aftermath of the incident, Kasouhha family did not respond to them, so
Rebels attacked their checkpoint on March 22, 2012.
He said: “The battle began at 11 am and continued to 3 and a half in the afternoon, the regular army did not intervene, despite the fact that security forces were not far and they were only about 600 meters from the checkpoint.”
The irony is that the rebels did not have a heavy weapon; all they have is an individual weapon type Kalashnikov machine gun.
He asserted that “if the regime wants to intervene he could have ended the clash in a short period, and would not allow the battle to continue, leaving al Kasouhha family facing the rebels alone in the battle.”
After that, the Syrian army started shelling the Sunni Muslim areas in Koseir . People thought that the state is revenging for
al Kasouhha family . They didn’t realize that the Syrian regime let them face the battle alone, if that tank of the regime was moved to support al Kasouhha family, the massacre have not occurred.
After blood was shed, there is no longer any possibility for reconciliation, because when blood flows tree of Tolerance cannot grow,” as French novelist Honore de Balzac says.
Later, a wave of rumors spread that regime and its agents on the ground, try to enhance sectarianism in Syrian society. There were reports saying that the Salafi fighters crossed into Syrian territory from Lebanon, and came to Koseir to kidnap Christian girls, so Christian families were urged to leave Koseir village.
A little number left the village after that, and later a large number followed them after a spread of second rumor, that
The regular army is preparing for a campaign to burn Koseir.
They told Christians that the Syrian army intends to clean Koseir from militants, and later you return back. Majority of Christians left, while the army did not show up and did not invade the village, while Sunni families have left in thousands before.
And when the village was empty of its residents, the situation became suitable for the robbers and Islamist militants, who believe that they engaged in jihad, and then they can steal the homes of Christians.
Amid this atmosphere, a group of militants in the Free Syrian Army wanted to attack the Christians for their loyalty to the Assad regime, even that Kasouhha family constitute only one-third of Christians in Koseir, and that family represent individual cases and there is no general support from Christians for the regime, as confirmed by a resident from this village.
At the beginning, liberal and secular officers in the Free Syrian Army prohibited attacking Christians, but as most of those officers died, the influence of extremists Increased.
Another inhabitant from Koseir said:” the regime fought with the secular officers, both were exhausted, while Salafi wing moves forward due to the financial support received from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. “
As the Salafi wing in the Free Syrian Army becomes stronger, “They started thinking of an Islamic emirate and the displacement of minorities and the confiscation of their land.”
Salafis succeeded in attracting a lot of groups and young people to their ranks. Despite the lack of conviction of Salafi ideology, the Free Officers fell between two fires, either that they cancel their military group or lie down in front of the Salafist groups to provide them with salaries and ammunition.
A third resident from Koseir, didn’t deny that a significant number of the rebels accepted to be under the wing of the Salafi group for financial reasons and driven by the need.
As the Salafi ideology escalated, the suffering of Christians exacerbated, because Salafists want to deport Christians
On the basis that their survival will guarantee the return of other displaced families.
Another resident said: “”Salafists want to cleanse Koseir from Christians and make it purely Islamic. Assad regime likes this situation, and also contributed to encouraging it because it serves its goals.”
“The Revolution continues and Salafists line became stronger, while secular forces weakened, and therefore they are looking that Koseir will be a Muslim region.”
Moving to the villages of al Hamra and aldimni, the situation is not better. People afraid to go out to the orchards to work for fear of being kidnapped, as the phenomenon of kidnapping-for-ransom increased.
Even in rabli , which is a Christian village it still remains under the control of the Syrian army so far. In rabli, there is one district for Alawites. But there are news that this region is loyal to the Syrian regime, so it needs to be punished.
An inhabitant from rabli said :” : “There is a Sectarian atmosphere against rabli, despite the fact that the majority of people opposed the regime, but some Christians hold arms with Alawites , and they were under the leadership of Amar Fayyad (Christian).”
He added: “Salafists now want to hold rabli accountable for the crime of Amar Fayyad.” There are preparations that free Syrian army will attack rabli, and thus the regular army would pull out in front of the Free Army, which is controlled by a part of extremist militant.
He warned that “if the residents of rabli were displaced and Christians who remained there were subjected to further harassment, they will not think of returning again to their land, and will look for another residence in another area.”
He said: “If rabli remains safe, then Christians will be fine”, and confirmed that cleansing operation was not limited to Koseir and its surroundings, as the danger moved to Hamra, aldimni and rabli, amid fears of displacing Christian families to capital of the Syria “.
Also the fear of transmission of sectarian strife in Syria to the border areas in Lebanon arises, particularly in the area of the
Al Kaa in Bekaa, where Texture of families is overlapped and interconnected in the region with their counterparts in Syria, without neglecting a large number of displaced Syrians in Bekaa.
This made one of Al Kaa inhabitants to recall the of the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad that “the Syrian and Lebanese people are one people in two states,” he said: “In the past we mocked him, today it is proved that he was right.”