Syria (MNN) — Another country tells Syrian refugees to “go home” despite ongoing instability. Over the past week, Turkey sent roughly 1,000 Syrian refugees to a province held by rebel and militant forces. The transfer comes as talks stall between U.S. and Turkish officials about setting up “safe zones” within Syria.
Meanwhile, some experts say a recent attack proves the Islamic State still has a presence in Syria. The terrorists target Christians – those who’ve stayed, and those who are returning. Middle East Concern’s Miles Windsor says Da’esh – the Arabic acronym for Islamic State – claimed a July 11 car bombing outside a church in a Christian neighborhood.
“There are at least 12 people who were injured, some critically injured,” Windsor says. “These are attempts to intimidate the Christian community.
“The reality is that Da’esh – whilst militarily defeated – the ideology [still] exists and they maintain some presence.”
According to Reuters, most of Turkey’s 3.6 million Syrian refugees live in provinces near the Turkey-Syria border; Istanbul alone holds more than a half-million. However, as the Associated Press reports, “between 600 and 1,500 Syrians were wrongfully returned to Syria from Istanbul in the last week.”
Leaving Lebanon behind
Lebanon points refugees to the exit sign, too; earlier this year, Lebanese officials made a statement on the regional stage encouraging refugee returns. In early July, the military forced refugees to tear down makeshift shelters.
For people returning to Syria from Lebanon, the situation is still complicated. Many Syrians hope for a brighter future in their homeland, but tensions between Syria’s government and its citizens haven’t improved. Nearly a decade of warfare destroyed the country’s infrastructure, and there’s little in the way of economic recovery. “A lot of the refugees who fled to Lebanon do not have much to return to; they have lost a great deal,” Windsor observes.
Middle East Concern supports people in the Middle East and North Africa who are marginalized, discriminated against, or persecuted for following Jesus. Support looks a little different from one case to another, but it typically involves “highlighting the challenges of Christians” and “providing advice wherever that’s possible,” Windsor says.
“We also will engage with the Christians who fled to places like Turkey and Lebanon.”
“We can [also] be praying for the Christian community in these parts of Syria: that they wouldn’t be intimidated [but instead] would be a source of hope and light that Syria needs right now.”
Header image depicts Syrian refugees on a bus in Turkey in 2012; photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons.