The city of Maalula in Syria is under assault by the insane religious wackos the US government is supporting in Syria. Maalula is a very special city whose residents still speak Aramaic. For those of you who hate Muslims, you’ll be glad to know that most of its residents are Christian. But I’m not doing this post for you. I’m doing it for anyone who hates sectarianism and treasures history, language, and humanity.
The Angry Arab noted an article in “Al-Safir” that appeared on Friday, September 6th in Arabic about the events in Maalula. I decided to translate it and put it up here. Send it to your congress creeps as you urge them to vote against any attack on Syria.
For those of you who don’t know, the Jabhat al-Nusra is a terrorist organization.
For pictures of the Convent of St. Takla, go here.
A Cry for Help from Maalula: “Al_Nusra has come. Pray for us!”
(This article appeared in Al-Safir on September 6, 2013. The authors are: Suhayb Anjarini and Ziad Haydar)
“Al-Nusra has come . . Al-Nusra has come, pray for us.” With these words Mother Belajia Sayyaf, the head of the Convent of St. Takla in Maalula, Syria, ended her conversation with “Al-Safir” regarding the deteriorating situation in this historical Christian town.
Battles between armed men essentially belonging to Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Syrian Arab Army broke out again yesterday evening amidst fears that a massacre may befall those residents who have chosen to remain – while a number of the town’s inhabitants (mainly women and children) were able to leave around noon.
By 6:00 pm yesterday Al-Nusra’s armed men re-entered the city after having withdrawn to the city’s outskirts in the morning. A source inside Maalula told “Al-Safir” that by around 7:00 pm six people in the city had fallen victim to snipers. The source shouted “I have no information right now other than to tell you that the citizens of Maalula need support. . . Can you send help?”
Sarkis (a pseudonym), one of the town’s residents who was able to flee to Damascus, said that they had left at noontime after the clashes had subsided. He noted that most of those who left were women, children and old men.
Regarding the events of the day before yesterday, the source confirmed that the large numbers of armed men had stormed the town after the explosion which targeted the Syrian army’s blockade at the city’s entrance before the (Al-Nusra) men ran throughout the city yelling “Allahu Akbar.” The source went on to say: “They smashed pictures of the Virgin Mary as well as crosses. I heard one of them shout ‘Hey Crusaders, your day has come.’” The source also reported that the armed men had stormed a number of homes and threatened their residents before withdrawing to the outskirts.
The Syrian army’s forces protect the town through two main road blocks at the southern and northern entrances to the city. And despite the fact that the over running of the internal road block came as a surprise, over time the possibilities of such a battle had been increasing especially due to the fact that areas running parallel to Maalula, places such as Yabrud (also spelled Yabroud), have been breeding grounds for the armed men in addition to having fallen under their control. The line of mountains on the eastern borders of Damascus also form a crossing point for smugglers headed towards Lebanon.
Mother Belajia Sayyaf said over the phone to “Al-Safir” that the town’s churches, monasteries and convents had not been attacked on Wednesday with the exception of two shells that hit the wall of ٍthe St. Takla convent. “Calm prevailed Thursday afternoon” she added, “and a number of people were able to leave. But now the clashes have started up again.” When asked why she and other residents of the convents had not left she answered “Where can we go? To whom do leave the convent? No matter what happens, we cannot abandon it.” She went on to say, “The armed men redeployed in the city about 6:30 pm (on Thursday) simultaneously with the start up again of battle sounds from a variety of weapons.” In a trembling voice interspersed with the sounds of shelling she ended the conversation saying “Al-Nusra has come. . .Al-Nusra has come. . . pray for us.”
Mary, one of those able to leave Maalula in the morning said that, “The armed men stormed the town on Wednesday (the day before yesterday), using a variety of weapons. Then (Syrian) army reinforcements showed up and violent clashes could be heard that lasted until late at night. In the morning we learned that the Syrian Army had set up a new roadblock at the entrance to the town at the Homs-Damascus road. The armed men withdrew to the other side of the city.” She added, “I didn’t want to leave, but my fear for my three kids compelled me to go.” Another person who had left said that “The armed men would not have been able to enter if there had not been carelessness in protecting the city – not to mention (the possibility of) collusion.”
A source in the field told “Al-Safir” in a comment on the return of the armed men to the town after news reports saying the Syrian Army had consolidated its control over it: “The army is continuing to stand up to the terrorists and the battles are going back and forth. Now elite forces are running the situation and the battle tonight will be decisive.” The source expected that “Maalula will be completely cleared of terrorists in by the time the morning comes.”
Jabhat Al-Nusra issued a statement yesterday claiming full responsibility for the attack on Maalula. The statement read in part: “In view of media reports and the large number of those who have taken responsibility for the blessed work of the lions of Jabhat Al-Nusra yesterday (the day before yesterday) with respect to completely destroying the Maalula blockade and ridding it of the Nusayris (a reference to the Syrian troops) we must mention the squadrons that participated and their roles in the battle.”
According to the statement “A squadron belonging to the Descendants of the Messenger Battalions received Jabhat Al-Nusra in the Safir Hotel in Maalula before the operation and helped by explaining the geography of the area the Mujahideen were in. The mujahid Abu Anas, who belongs to the Descendants of the Messenger squadron (sic), participated in the storming of the roadblock along with the lions of Jahbat al-Nusra.”
While the Syrian Army was concentrating its forces at the primary entrance near the International Highway, the clashes inside the city began to take on a sectarian nature between “Christians defending their homes and holy sites” and Muslims opposing (the regime), some of whom are from the town.
Religious zeal became more intense the day before yesterday after the Christian families living in the town and who form the overwhelming majority heard calls over loudspeakers echoed by the mountains calling them “to enter Islam” according the same source. A portion of the city’s hard-line Muslims formed the backbone of the armed mens’ activity over the past two days, for example: The majority of the members of the group that months ago took over the Safir Hotel in Maalula and the Mar Sirkis Monastery across from it were Muslims residents of the city along with some who were not.”
According to the source, some inhabitants of the city hid in the caves in the mountains waiting for a chance to take the International Highway to Damascus. The extent of damage to the historical buildings is not yet known, nor the is the number of civilian casualties. What is known is that the group manning the Syrian blockade that was targeted the day before yesterday was wiped out and that some (attackers) slaughtered (them) after the explosion.
According to the source, information as of yesterday evening was that minor damage had been done to the St. Ilyas Monastery and to the Grand Monastery due to mortar shells landing nearby.