In the first six months of 2012, the Syrian city of Qusayr was religiously cleansed. The entire Christian population of the city – over 800 families – was expelled by armed Islamic jihadists fighting against the Syrian regime.
On CSI’s recent mission to Syria, we were able to interview one of the survivors of the cleansing. Normally we do not use the real names or show the faces of victims of religious persecution from Syria, for security reasons. This family, however, insisted that their real names be used and their faces be shown. They want the world to know their story.
Name: Fadul Abu Yohanna Kasouhah (male, early twenties, married with five children.)
Interviewed by Dr. John Eibner, June 2013
I am from Qusayr, Syria. I lost my uncle and my two cousins. They were killed there.
There were about 40,000 people in Qusayr before the war, including 7,000 Christians and a few Alawites. The rest were Sunni Muslims.
In late 2011, the Sunni townsmen came and told us to either join us in anti-regime demonstrations or leave the town. If we didn’t, we would be killed.
The same announcement was carried on the loudspeakers on the mosques in the city. They named Christian families by name. There were 20 mosques in Qusayr. All of them were involved in this.
My cousin Bater said, “We will not leave. This is our town, our land.” He was recently married, and his wife was seven months pregnant. They shot him to death as he was going to work on his motorbike.
I tried to take the body, but I was stopped by armed men wouldn’t let me. They wanted to dismember it. But my brother and uncle retrieved the body while under fire and took it to the hospital.
We know the people who killed Bater. I didn’t know their names but I recognized them as locals. We never had a problem with them in the past.
We lived in a place known as “Christian Street.” The rebels started shooting at people on the street. In March 2012, many foreign jihadis came to Qusayr and surrounded Christian Street. They were joined by a mob of local Sunnis. Ten of us – me and my relatives – defended all of the Christians as they hid in their homes. There were 30 government soldiers fighting together with us. This was a battle for our homes.
There was non-stop shooting between 6 am and 9 am. My cousin Kassan Hanna was shot in the head. My uncle tried to retrieve his body, and he was shot dead. We escaped down a back street and took shelter in an army checkpoint. The attackers burned all the houses. We heard them shouting, “We killed Hanna and his family. All Christians must leave.”
The next day, all the Christians did leave Qusayr – 870 families. Only two or three very old Christians stayed. Most left with nothing. No one helped us. All the men in our family are construction workers. We have no connections to the government or security forces.
I joined in the army’s fight to retake Qusayr. [Regime forces recaptured Qusayr from the rebels in June 2013]. I’ve already started repairing my home. Most of the street was totally destroyed. There is no electricity there, but we can rebuild. We found the church destroyed, and the icons were burned and intentionally desecrated.
Please put my story on the internet so that people can learn the truth.
Through local partners in Syria, CSI is helping provide Christian families forced from their homes in Homs, Qusayr, Aleppo and elsewhere with food, medical care, shelter, and education. You can donate to these efforts at our website: www.csi-usa.org.