Syria: Stop Targeting Religious Minorities

Syria: Stop Targeting Religious Minorities 08 October 2014

The International Gulf Organization for Human Rights strongly condemns the kidnapping of a Roman Catholic priest and 20 of his parishioners by jihadist rebels.

According to official reports, Father Hanna Jallouf, parish priest at Qunyeh, Syria was taken by some brigades linked to the Nusra Front. This is not the first time that Christians have been attacked in the Syrian war. Al-Nusra was behind the abduction of a group of Greek Orthodox nuns and their attendants who were later freed as part of a prisoner exchange. A month later, a Dutch Jesuit priest Frans van der Lugt was beaten and shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his monastery. Italian Jesuit priest Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio, who spent decades promoting religious dialogue in Syria, was kidnapped in July 2013 by suspected Islamic State fighter and is still missing. This persecution of people in the name of their religious beliefs is against the basic tenets of Universal Declaration of Human Right.

The revolution which began as an attempt to topple the Assad regime has taken an increasingly sectarian tone. Apart from deeply dividing the different Muslim sects, the conflict has put several minorities, including Christians, Assyrians and Yazidis, in a vulnerable position. A number of nuns, monks and priests have been kidnapped or killed in Syria since the uprising began in 2011. Christians accounted for 10% of the Syrian population before the civil war started in 2011 but hundreds of thousands have since fled the country. This is a blatant violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which Syria signed into accession in 1969. It specifies that everyone is entitled to equal protection of the law against any discrimination and against any incitement to discrimination.

IGO calls on all parties involved in the Syrian conflict to ensure that all minorities are protected against religious and racial discrimination. IGO also urges the international community to pressurize the Syrian government to take concrete steps to end the three year long war that has displaced more than 6.5 million people.