-Compliments of US tax dollars.
(AINA) -- The Antiochian Orthodox church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus was a landmark of al-Thawrah (also known as al-Tabqah). It was an impressive, modern structure with a large yard, surrounded by a high wall and well-situated on a main street near the corniche -- a well landscaped area hugging the southern bank of Lake Assad which was popular with locals going on an evening stroll. Its elegant dome, surmounted by a cross, could be seen from all parts of the Third Quarter (also known as Hayy al-Ishtirakiyah), where it was located........
On February 11, rebel fighters from the Islamist Jihadist "al-Nusra Front" -- designated by the USA, UN, Australia and UK as a terrorist organisation -- took control of the city and its strategic hydroelectric dam, the largest of its kind in the country. They also seized control of the three quarters that housed dam workers and in which, of course, stood the Orthodox Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, and in which most of the Christians were settled.
Christian eyewitnesses who fled al-Thawrah, now displaced in other parts of Syria, as well as in Lebanon and Turkey, tell of religious discrimination by the rebels, as well as forced confiscation of Christian possessions and properties, with many items being sold on the black market in order to purchase weapons and ammunition. Even the churches weren't spared.
"The 'Free Syrian Army' demolished the [Sts. Sergius and Bacchus] church," lamented one refugee, "They tore up the sanctuary curtains, Bibles and other holy books, and broke all the crosses, chairs and icons of Jesus and the saints. They stole electrical appliances like fans, chandeliers and lights. They took whatever was in the church, and sold it all. There is nothing there now....................
"Even though I have left," recounted another Assyrian refugee, "the terrorists still call and text me from there, on my cell phone, to bother me. They recently called and told me: 'If you attempt to return to al-Tabqah we will cut off your head and display it on the mosque so that all the Muslims there can see it and be proud of it.' They say other things too, but what they say is so disturbing, that I keep my phone switched off unless I really need to use it."
Whilst it may be easy to switch off a cell phone, and ignore such threats, it is not so easy to shake off the trauma of dispossession and loss. After spending up to 45 years in a town which became their home, many of these refugees managed to escape with nothing but the clothes on their backs. "We have lost everything," said the head of an Assyrian household displaced from al-Thawrah, "There is nothing for us over there now, nothing to return to. We just need help to get out of here and settle in a country that's safe."
As the report notes, the al-Nusra Front is on the bad guy list and by extension not to be provided military aid or money, but there is no doubt that at least some of what the US does send to approved rebel groups finds its way to the Islamists.
Omar's group, Ghurabaa al-Sham, wasn't defeated by the government. It was dismantled by a rival band of revolutionaries - hardline Islamists.
The Islamists moved against them at the beginning of May. After three days of sporadic clashes Omar's more moderate fighters, accused by the Islamists of looting, caved in and dispersed, according to local residents. Omar said the end came swiftly.
The Islamists confiscated the brigade's weapons, ammunition and cars, Omar said. "They considered this war loot. Maybe they think we are competitors," he said. "We have no idea about their goals. What we have built in two years disappeared in a single day."