Report: Over 120 Syrian churches damaged by war since 2011

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This May 18, 2017 file photo, shows a Syrian flag raised over the damaged Saint Mary Roman Orthodox church at the mountain resort town of Zabadani in the Damascus countryside, Syria. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
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This April 1, 2018 file photo, shows a cross that lies in the rubble of a destroyed church that was blown up by Islamic State militants in 2015, in the deserted village of Tal Jazeera, northern Syria. (AP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Report: Over 120 Syrian churches damaged by war since 2011

  • Some of the attacks were deliberate, the majority, however, were caused by front-line combat, shelling or rockets

BEIRUT: A Syrian war monitor associated with the opposition said Monday that over 120 Christian places of worship have been damaged or destroyed by all sides in the country’s eight-year conflict.
Some of the attacks were deliberate, such as the Daesh group using bulldozers to destroy the ancient Saint Elian Monastery in Homs province in 2015. The majority, however, were caused by front-line combat, shelling or rockets.
Christians made up about 10 percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million, who co-existed with the Muslim majority and enjoyed freedom of worship under President Bashar Assad’s government.
Most have left for Europe over the past 20 years, with their flight significantly gathering speed since the start of the current conflict.
Around half of all Syrians are now either internally displaced or have left the country.
The report by the Qatar-based Syrian Network for Human Rights, which collects statistics on the war, said government forces were responsible for 60% of the 124 documented attacks since fighting erupted in March 2011. The rest were blamed on Daeshmilitants, the Al-Qaeda-linked group Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham and other factions of the armed opposition.
There was immediate comment from the government, which rarely comments on reports from foreign organizations.
“Targeting Christian places of worship is a form of intimidation against and displacement of the Christian minority in Syria,” said Fadel Abdul Ghany, the founder and chairman of SNHR.
The report said Daesh was behind 10 attacks on Christian sites, five of which were in the northern city of Raqqa, once the extremists de-facto capital. The group was known for displacing and killing Christians in areas it controlled and confiscating their properties.
Hardest hit was the northern province of Aleppo, with 34 attacks, 24 by rebels and six by the government.
The highest number of attacks by government forces — 27 out of 29 — was in the central province of Homs.
SNHR’s report also placed blame on Syrian government allies Russia and Iran, but did not specify how many of the attacks they’d caused.


Online revolution in the hands of Lebanese youth

Updated 22 min 7 sec ago

Online revolution in the hands of Lebanese youth

  • For the first five days of the demonstrations, television images transmitted live to the Lebanese public provided the incentive for people to take to the streets
  • On the sixth day, activists reconsidered social media, and WhatsApp has become the most-used platform to transmit live images

BEIRUT: The Lebanese youth revolt against tax increases and corruption began on social media with protests about a proposed levy on WhatsApp, bringing dissent from the virtual world to the real world.

For the first five days of the demonstrations, television images transmitted live to the Lebanese public provided the incentive for people to take to the streets.

On the sixth day, activists reconsidered social media, and WhatsApp has become the most-used platform to transmit live images.

The objection of Lebanese army soldiers to motorcyclists holding the flags of Amal and Hezbollah led to the protest rally in Riad Al-Solh Square in central Beirut on Monday night. This reassured those who were still apprehensive about taking to the street.

The “electronic revolution” is parallel to the revolution on the streets. It is mostly comprised of young people aged 12 and above.

Politicians should talk to these young people using modern means, which is what Prime Minister Saad Hariri has done. On his Twitter account, Hariri tweeted part of his speech after the cabinet meeting: “I will not allow anyone to threaten young demonstrators. Your voice is heard, and if your demand is an early election to make your voice heard, I am with you. You have returned the Lebanese identity to its right place outside any sectarian restriction.”

Activists leading the protests have been devising various forms of electronic attraction to motivate people to take to the street, including a video with the signature “Do you know why?” It includes songs about how to defy injustice, recounting the reasons for the revolution and filing “preliminary” demand papers summarizing the demands of people speaking on the street and in front of the cameras.

The hashtag #down_with_Bank_governor coincided with the move by some activists on Tuesday to the Central Bank of Lebanon to protest against the policy of its governor Riad Salameh. However, the response came through the same electronic means and other applications defending the governor.

Many rumors are circulating on social media, including that the president summoned the TV media for consultation and that there is a fear that the aim is to pressure the owners of the TV stations to stop transmitting live demonstrations to prevent protesters from expressing their opinion.

The most well-known action was that of the sister of the Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil resorting to social media to defend President Aoun and her brother.

Dr. Iman Eliwan, a professor of modern media, said that young Lebanese view social media as their “only platform of expression, and touching it ignited the first spark of the protests. And resorting to it during the protests aimed at activating ‘networking’ to prevent any possibility of laxity and to remain united using one language.”

And whether the absence of a unified reference for the movement is caused by this “networking,” she said: “It is possible that there may be group leaders on social media, and they consider these platforms as their strength.”

Eliwan added: “These young people express deep anger and this happens at their age. We used to say that they belonged to the Sofa Party. But they went down to the streets. They control the streets. Maybe they are marginalized in their homes and in their communities.”

Asked if these online revolutions have achieved any results, she said: “It has not reached anywhere in the experiences that we have seen in the Arab world. It can ignite the spark and activate the movement, but the horizon of this movement is deadlocked.”