Armenian Syrian Remains After Most Fled

July 03,2015

TAL ABYAD, SYRIA— Among the many casualties of the war in Syria is the country's rich ethnic and religious diversity. One of the few remaining Christians in the northern town of Tal Abyad, however, remains to tell the story.

Syrians in Tal Abyad are now free of Islamic State rule. But new, more secular leadership comes too late for the city's Christians.

Once numbering 6000, only eight are known to remain. Khacho is one of them. He asked VOA not to use his real name or show his face. But he said wants to show what happened at his Armenian church, once a source of international pride.

“In 2011, we held a Festival of the Cross. People from Lebanon, America and France all came to celebrate. After 2011/2012, everything changed,” he said.

First came the rebels and looting. Then came the jihadis and worse.

In 2012, with the coming of Ahrar Sham, al-Nusra and then Islamic State, this was no longer allowed to be used as a church, a place for Christians to invoke God's name. It became a prison. Hundreds of people were detained here. Many of them were beheaded.

“This way is the prison. What they made to be a prison. These are the things they did. They put them here," said Khacho.

It's a lonely life, and war is not far away. The church sits largely empty, but it's safe, at least for now.