10/01/2018, 19.35
SYRIA
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Mgr Hindo “worried about a Christian journalist’s disappearance in a Kurdish area

Souleman Yusph, an Assyrian journalist and activist, has been missing since yesterday. According to local sources, he was taken by Kurdish officials in Qamishli. In recent weeks, he had reported attacks on Christian schools. For the bishop of Hasakah, Kurdish persecution of Christians continues.

Hasakah (AsiaNews) – The Syriac Church is closely following the fate of Souleman Yusph, an Assyrian journalist and activist who went missing yesterday in Qamishli, a town in north-eastern Syria under Kurdish control.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Jacques Behnan Hindo, head of the Syro-Catholic Archeparchy of Hasakah-Nisibis, said “at present we don’t have any news” about what happened to him. However, the most likely scenario points to the Asayish, the Kurdish security and intelligence service.

"We hope that the situation can be resolved as soon as possible,” Mgr Hindo said. “We are closely following the story in order to figure out who took him and where he is now."

Souleman Yusph is a leading member of the Assyrian community in north-eastern Syria, an area that is under Kurdish control. His fate remains a mystery.

According to local sources, the journalist was arrested on behalf of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is affiliated with the PKK and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Apparently, the journalist was stopped yesterday in his hometown of Qamishli around 9.00 pm (local time). His possessions, including a laptop and various documents, were seized.

Yusph has reported extensively and critically on the closure by Kurdish authorities of Assyrian Christian schools in the region at the end of August.

His reporting highlighted acts of intimidation and threats by the authorities. For weeks, violence and fear have prevailed in the area.

On 22 September, another leading Christian leader, Isa Rashid, a teacher and the education director at the targeted schools, was brutally attacked and beaten outside his home. Because of the serious injuries, he was hospitalised whilst his attackers are still at large.

Yusph wrote extensively about the situation of Assyrian Christians, forced to live under SDF rule.

On 28 August, he posted pictures and videos showing neighbourhood police going into Christian schools to close them as well as intimidating local residents.

Tens of thousands of people saw the pictures and videos online, highlighting the abuses by the Kurdish authorities. The latter however continue to deny the accusations.

The situation boiled over at the end of August, when the Kurds closed several state and Christian schools for refusing to adopt the local school curriculum inspired by Kurdish nationalism and to use of Kurdish in lieu of Arabic.

To stop protests by parents and students, Kurdish forces resorted to the use of violence, including firearms.

For Mgr Hindo, Souleman Yusph’s disappearance a week after an agreement was reached (through the mediation of Christian and Kurdish leaders, including the bishop of Hasakah-Nisibis) is a source of profound concern.

Recently, Kurdish authorities "issued a decree that requires anyone working for the Kurdish community to send their children to their schools. Those who break the law can be expected to go to jail and be heavily fined.”

Tensions are running high in the area, the prelate noted. In his view, there is a clear attempt to “seize everyone’s assets and properties” with the complicity of the British, French, Italians and the West in general, “who have done nothing to protect the Christians of Mesopotamia.”

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