QAMISHLI, Syria — With President Donald Trump’s sudden pullback of U.S. troops from northeast Syria Oct. 7, Turkey’s warplanes and artillery have bombarded cities and positions occupied by Kurdish forces who up to this point had counted on the U.S. as allies.
Turkey’s invasion with troops and tanks, aided by Sunni Arab militants called the Free Syrian Army, is widely feared to be the trigger for a bloodbath with the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces. The Kurds will no longer have U.S. coalition air power behind them, but are battle-hardened by a horrific five-year war fought to the death against the Islamic State group (ISIS).
Relations between Christians and Kurds have been complicated over allegations that the Kurds have taken land or tried to impose their language on Syrian Christians and other smaller constituent groups, in their ambition to build a Kurdish ethno-state. But Christians are also concerned that Turkey’s plans to drive out the Kurds and carve out a 30-kilometer zone of territory for resettling 3.6 million Sunni Arab Syrian refugees will destabilize the region even more by permanently altering its demographics.
Already, northeast Syria’s 40,000 Christians are among the casualties of the Turkish incursion, with civilian deaths and injuries reported in centers with large Christian populations along the Turkish-Syrian border.
Matthew, a 28-year-old Christian whose real name is withheld by request, studied agricultural engineering before the war in Syria put his graduation on hold. He spoke with the Register from Qamishli, a city divided between the Syrian government and the Kurds right on the front lines of the Turkish invasion.