On August 7, 2018, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), threatened to close the Syriac Orthodox school in Derbiseye, Syria after school officials refused to adopt a Kurdish teaching curriculum imposed on them by the PKK.
The Kurdish-language primary school curricula introduced by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria in October, 2015 was heavily criticized for being too ideological and prioritizing a single view over all others.
This is not the first time the PKK targets Christian schools in Syria: in November, 2015, sixteen Assyrian and Armenian organizations issued a statement protesting Kurdish expropriation of private property in the Hasaka province of Syria.
Following the August 7, 2018 threats to close down Christian schools, the PKK and the Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), which receives U.S. military aid, began a campaign of harassment and intimidation against the Christian community, churches and schools of Hasaka, based in Syria’s Qamishli. Leaders and priests of the Christian churches in Hasaka issued a statement against these attacks on schools and churches, as well as the confiscation of Christian properties.
“The United States has a presence in this part of Syria, and supports the various units that comprise the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that control this region. It is unacceptable that Christians and other minorities are unable to practice their religion freely, speak their ancient language, and live without repression or threats after suffering so much persecution. The United States should immediately work to end this campaign against these vulnerable populations”, stated IDC Executive Director Philippe Nassif.
The recent uptick in the persecution of Christians in Kurdish areas follows the continued deterioration of Christian, Druze, and Yezidi populations elsewhere in Syria, as the Assad regime has failed to protect them and in some cases, openly victimized them.
“From the brief but devastating fall of the Christian town of Maaloula several years ago – the only remaining Aramaic speaking village in the world – to the more recent July 2018 attacks that killed 220 Syrians, mostly from the Druze community in Southern Syria’s Suweida, we are gravely concerned that Syria’s diversity is quickly disappearing due to continued conflict,” added Nassif. “The Presence and success of these minority communities are of critical importance to achieving U.S. National Security objectives.”
IDC stands with Christian and other religious minority communities in their fight against any human rights abuses, and we will continue to advocate for their rights.

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