Syrian Christians and Kurds unite as battle to retake Raqqa begins

Syrian Christians and Kurds unite as battle to retake Raqqa begins

The Culture

Today I received a call which I’ve dreaded. The battle for Raqqa has started. Starting today, thousands of brave fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will fight from house to house against ISIS: an entrenched enemy that will give away absolutely nothing. Some of my dear friends will be dodging bullets and dismantling IEDs. I can only pray that they make it out alive.

This is an immensely important moment in the war against ISIS. After three years of endless fighting the SDF is about to take the capital of the “Caliphate.” There is no doubt about the final outcome: ISIS will be defeated. For the democratic, pluralist Federation of Northern Syria this is a highly symbolic moment. ISIS made the Federation its prime target.

David Kills Goliath

Nobody back in 2014 could have believed that the Federation would crush ISIS, instead of the other way around. That religious liberty and equality for women would triumph over savagery. That the brave people of Syria would free themselves. But they did. Shouldn’t that give us hope?

The upcoming victory only became possible thanks to a remarkable and unique cooperation of Kurds, Arabs and Syrian Christians. They created the most unusual alliance in the modern Middle East.

This alliance is unique because it is not a simple ‘anti-ISIS’ coalition of convenience. No, in a region where Syrian government authority had vanished, people targeted by ISIS came together. In these extraordinary circumstances these groups created their own government, starting with local and regional councils. They ensured that men and women had equal representation at all levels. They introduced the same freedom of religion as we enjoy in the West — which is rare in the Middle East. Federation residents can choose their own religion, change it, or hold to none at all. They can practice or preach it freely.

This alliance is unique because it is not a simple ‘anti-ISIS’ coalition of convenience. No, in a region where Syrian government authority had vanished, people targeted by ISIS came together. In these extraordinary circumstances these groups created their own government, starting with local and regional councils. They ensured that men and women had equal representation at all levels. They introduced the same freedom of religion as we enjoy in the West — which is rare in the Middle East. Federation residents can choose their own religion, change it, or hold to none at all. They can practice or preach it freely.

These Syrian freedom fighters started out with three small regions and very few weapons. Nobody would have believed back then that this movement would grow into the force that would conquer ISIS: A self-starter army with home-made “tanks” and little or no help from the outside world. But they resisted ISIS in Kobane and in the Khabour Valley against all odds — and won. And now they’re moving into Raqqa to finish off ISIS in its capital. It’s perhaps the most stirring story of self-sacrifice and heroism in our times.  

President Trump made the bold move to arm the Kurds in the SDF, reversing the Obama administration policy of dribbling out meager aid, and only to Arab groups. Sadly, the U.S. is still honoring Obama’s decision not to arm the Christians — though they’re a full part of the SDF, and have bravely fought ISIS for years. American Christians should let the White House and Congress know that this policy is unjust and foolish. It leaves Christians uniquely vulnerable and dependent. It tells the rest of the region (where Turkey and Saudi Arabia back Sunni Islamists) that Syrian Christians are friendless and forgotten.

What Happens Next?

To answer this question we need to take a look at a very recent ‘political’ map of Syria. (It’s the main image for this column.) It shows the territory held by every single faction in Syria.

This article continues at [Stream.org] Syrian Christians Help Kurds to Liberate ISIS Capital

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