By Brandon Turbeville
In yet another example of the religious fanaticism and intentional targeting of civilians by the foreign-backed death squads operating in Syria, a recent offensive push by the killers into the Christian village of Maaloula has resulted in widespread destruction, vandalism, and even the kidnapping of 12 nuns and others from a local Christian monastery.
On December 2, 2013, death squads invaded the ancient city of Maaloula which sits just north of Damascus and close to the Damascus highway, a strategic supply route for the Syrian government forces and the Western-backed death squads. After overtaking the government forces which had themselves retaken the town only months ago, the death squads began instituting oppressive policies and terrorizing the inhabitants.
Indeed, shortly after the invasion, the terrorists kidnapped 12 Syrian and Lebanese Orthodox Christian nuns who had been residing in the Mar Thecla convent, located in the middle of the city. In addition, Febronia Nabhan, the mother superior of another convent in Maaloula, stated that three “young maids” were also kidnapped. According to Mario Zenari, a spokesman for the Vatican, the women were seen being forced to follow the death squads toward Yabroud.
Although the death squads have not released any public statement regarding the reason behind the kidnappings, the ridiculous assertions put forward by the mainstream death squad sympathizing media that the women were taken “for their own protection” should be dismissed out of hand. If death squad forces were abducting the women for their protection, it would be the first time in death squad history that protection was the reason behind an abduction.
Indeed, if protection was the reason for the abduction, now that the fighting has abated, why have the women not been released? Who were the women being protected from? Members of their own convent? Residents of the mostly Christian village? Government forces who have protected Christians at every opportunity (from the death squads)? Clearly, such a suggestion is beyond laughable.
This is particularly true since the last time death squads were in control of Maaloula, rapes, killings, beheadings, and vandalism against Christians were the order of the day. Women in particular have paid a heavy price for the death squad success on the ground.
At this time, little is known about the condition of the abducted nuns. However, Febronia Nabhan claims that a message was received by another mother superior of a nearby convent suggesting that the nuns “were fine and safe.” Later, Nabhan’s deputy, Stephanie Haddad, stated that she spoke with some of the abducted nuns and that they insisted they were being held against their will. If this is the case, “fine and safe” are scarcely words than can be used to describe their status.
The majority of the invading death squads were apparently members of the al-Qaeda-linked Jobhat al-Nusra Front, hardly a positive omen for the well-being of the nuns, particularly since these death squads carry such an antipathy toward Christians.
The fighting in Maaloula began amidst the intensification of clashes between the Assad government and death squads in villages and towns near and around the Damascus-Homs highway.
Fortunately, however, reports coming from several different sources suggest that yet another counteroffensive by the Syrian army is currently being prepared. Al Mayadeen reports that Syrian soldiers along with Syrian citizen militias are actually conducting counteroffensive operations as of the writing of this article. Ziad Fadel of Syrian Perspective states that Syrian Arab Army forces are planning an attack on Yabroud, the area to which the captured nuns have apparently been taken. Fadel writes, Command has steered large elements of the Syrian First Army Corps toward the ancient town.
In the meantime, reports indicate that the nuns and their Mother Superior, Bellagia Sayyaaf, have been spirited off to Yabrood where the terrorists believe they can keep the SAA from attacking while the nuns are kept there as hostages.” He continues by stating that his military sources tell him “that the Syrian government will not be dissuaded from attacking Yabrood because of some nuns being held captive there. Instead, he thinks, the SAA will attempt to free the nuns through other means.”
Maaloula is an ancient city that is considered to be one of the birthplaces of Christianity. The city contains a number of ancient shrines and monasteries that are irreplaceable in terms of historical significance, prompting it to be listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Maaloula is also of the few places in the world where Aramaic is still spoken.
While every Syrian has been affected by the Western-backed death squad invasion, Christians have been particularly hard hit. As RT writes,
According to the Syrian Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Gregory Laham, some 450,000 Syrian Christians have been forced from their homes by the civil war that began in March 2011. He added that “at least 57 Christian sites” have been damaged or destroyed since the beginning of hostilities, and blamed the United States and its Western allies for aggravating the situation by providing assistance to the rebels.
“I believe it is all systematic and planned,” Sami Housni, a Christian priest in Damascus told RT. “Forcing Christians to leave . . . In Iraq, for instance, less than 200,000 Christians remain. We do have concerns, we do hope to stick to our land – Syria, which is the cradle of Christianity. We also hope that the Pope and heads of Christian denominations shall call for denouncing violence and adopting dialogue.”
While it is clear that continued fighting between “rebel” forces and the Assad government will inevitably result in the death of innocent civilians, it is even clearer that a death squad victory would be worse for the people of Maaloula and Syria as a whole.
 “Islamist fighters move 12 abducted Syrian nuns from Maaloula to rebel-held town.” RT. December 3, 2013. http://rt.com/news/syria-islamists-kidnap-nuns-663/comments/
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