Many of Syria’s Christian villages exist around the Khabur River, an area ideal for raising animals. The fertile land makes it an ideal place for supporting a tight-knit community, but the area has been destroyed by ISIS, and most of the Christians are either dead or displaced.
ISIS targeted the community by destroying local churches and-or kidnapping locals. A mass kidnapping in 2015 saw the capture of 220 residents. While the jihadists were fended off by rebels and most of the captives were returned, many of the freed people left because ISIS had destroyed the local churches.
The past seven years of war in Syria have displaced over half the country’s population. Christians have been marginalized in the Middle East for decades, and ISIS’ rise to power saw their treatment of those they call “infidels” become worse both in practice and policy. Christians under ISIS rule face special taxes, but they also face destruction to their communities.
According to the report, since war began in 2011, the number of Assyrian Christians in the region has gone from 10,000 to about 900. There used to be two dozen churches. Now, just one holds regular services.
Locals doubt that anyone displaced will return.