by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has stated in a new report that Christians in northwestern Syria are now living under threat from the de facto rule of the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, a former al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group, Christian Today reports.
In its report, the USCIRF attests that the HTS is becoming increasingly powerful in northwest Syria, including in parts of the Idlib governorate, one of the last bastions of resistance against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, CT said. This increased power is a threat to religious minorities, including Christians, because, in exerting itself as a militant Islamist Syrian rebel group, the HTS seeks to “harass religious minorities and prevent them from the free practice of their religion, forbidding Christians’ ringing of church bells or holding some religious ceremonies.”
“Since 2015, religious minorities such as Christians and Druze have lost their homes and land to HTS and its predecessors,” the USCIRF report says. “Under the present Salvation Government, the Properties Committee continues to misappropriate Christians’ private properties and either redistribute them to HTS members and their families or rent them to internally displaced persons for the Salvation Government’s profit. Evidence suggests that this confiscation scheme, which includes the ‘targeting’ of Christians, may amount to the war crime of pillage.”
Moreover, the USCIRF report noted the HTS appears to be developing a dangerous political alliance with Turkey, “which itself represents a distinct threat to vulnerable religious minority groups via its military incursions in northern Syria,” CT said.
Although Turkey has officially designated HTS as a terrorist organization, “perhaps in tacit exchange for HTS’ services as a watchdog and security force, it has not actively impeded the rebel group from gaining administrative power in Idlib in recent years,” the USCIRF report warns.
Syria ranks 15th on the US Open Doors World Watch List 2022 of the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous to live as a Christian.