Strategic Culture Foundation
December 13, 2013
For example, in response to the advance of the government army into the Qalamoun mountains between Damascus and Homs, where a powerful group of rebels had gathered for a sudden advance on the capital from the north (this group grew from 5,000 men a year ago to 20,000 in November of this year), the jihadists once again rushed into the nearby Christian town of Maaloula.
After vandalizing and desecrating the ancient churches, on December 2 they took 12 nuns from the Orthodox convent of St. Thecla hostage, hiding them in the city of Yabrud, which is held by the rebels. The rebels stated that they would burn the convent and kill the hostages, including the abbess, Mother Pelagia Sayyaf, after which the army retreated.
The Free Qalamoun Brigades, which are part of the Army of Islam (Jeysh al-Islam), took responsibility for these barbarous acts. News agencies reported only an offer to exchange the kidnapped sisters for a thousand female prisoners accused of aiding terrorists, but in fact the rebels demanded that the government forces stop their attack on Yabrud and lift the siege against the rebels in East Ghouta in exchange for the lives of the unfortunate nuns, in other words, encourage their barbarism by handing them the victory.
The Qatari television channel Al-Jazeera broadcast video meant to show that the sisters “are being treated well in captivity” (as if they can be considered prisoners of war!). However, it is clear from the broadcast that the nuns were forced to remove their crosses, which is an insult to the symbol of their faith. At the same time, hundreds of rebels from the groups Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham Al Islami were redeployed from Yabrud to Rankous in an attempt to occupy the nearby Christian city of Saidnaya. During the attack on the city they used grenade launchers, from which they shelled the local churches and convent. In eastern Syria, in the city of Ar-Raqqah, the group called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) destroyed all Christian symbols in one of the city’s churches and established its headquarters there.