Al-Akhbar News: “The churches of Yabrud in ruins”; The Independent: “act of sacrilege”

(Source: Al-Akhbar, Photo by Haitham Moussaw)

Journalists are touring Yabrud after the Syrian Arab Army took it back from the rebels a week ago. They are noting what appears to be the systematic destruction and purposeful desecration of churches by Yabrud’s recent rebel occupants. See Haitham Moussaw’s photos of St. Mary Greek Catholic Church in “The churches of Yabrud in ruins”.

Veteran Middle East journalist Robert Fisk was also in Yabrud last week. See the following excerpts from his excellent report, “On the march with Assad’s army” in The Independent:

The battle for Yabroud is over, but its Greek Catholic church has been savagely vandalised by its former rebel occupants, its streets carpeted with cartridge cases, its houses smashed with shell holes. Syria’s soldiers – along with a host of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon – watched General Badi Ali raise the government flag on Monday, too late to save the beautiful frescoes slashed into ribbons by the men of the Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front men of the Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front in Syria’s oldest church.

The Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady is a place of shame, of burnt copies of the New Testament, paintings slashed with knives – many were lying in strips of gold and red fabric beside the altar’s broken cross – and mosaics chiselled from the walls. Sceptics may ask if the regime performed this act of sacrilege – for the benefit of cameras – but it must have taken weeks to have wrecked this place of worship with its ancient columns and to have gouged out the eyes of the mosaic saints.     

The Islamists had attacked a mosaic of St George and the Dragon – and had even gouged out the dragon’s eyes as well as those of the unfortunate knight. You cannot call such sacrilege an infamy. But you have to ask how Syria can ever repair relations between its Muslims and Christians after such vandalism. Perhaps the answer is never, although in an act of immense courage, the Muslim civilians of this ancient town protected their Christian neighbours to the end…

…The road into the town was torn up, its buildings, shops and stores ransacked, its people hiding in fear. I found one woman only in a street of Ottoman houses so old that their walls were made of clay and water. She still kept cows in her basement. Um Qusai – hers was the little boy – talked of how she and up to 70 other women staged a demonstration in the street against the Jabhat al-Nusra fighters, some of whom did not even speak Arabic…

…There were other comments which were deeply disturbing. Um Qusai claimed that the Jabhat al-Nusra fighters – who like her were Sunni Muslims – forced the people in the town to pay high prices for the food they brought in. The Christians had to pay even higher prices as a tax because of their religion.  And much of the food, she said, was UN humanitarian aid from across the border in Lebanon – presumably from the refugee camps in which supporters of the rebels have sought safety…

…The Syrians officers said they had found Egyptian and Emirates passports in the town. They were real, they said, and were taken from the corpses of their dead owners – they could, alas, not produce them for me to see – although they had names…

Read Robert Fisk’s entire article here.

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