Khabour Guards Commander: Turkey wants to wipe us out

Madeleine Khamis is a commander of the Christian defense force Khabour Guards in northeast Syria. She warns that Turkey wants to continue the violent expulsion of Christians in the spirit of the 1915 genocide.

For more than seven weeks Turkey has been attacking the self-governing territories of North and East Syria in violation of international law. With the occupation of the cities of Girê Spî (Tal Abyad) and Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ain) and surrounding villages by the NATO partner and its jihadist auxiliary troops, approved by the US and Russia, some 300,000 people have had to leave their homes so far. Nevertheless, Ankara is still not satisfied. In particular, the villages around Til Temir and the small town of Ain Issa on the strategically important M4 road are the focus of the invasion troops. The region lies outside the targeted "security zone", a thirty-kilometer-deep strip on the Turkish border, and is being attacked unabated. Ankara also wants to extend its occupation to the other cities on the border line in order to implement the actual goal behind the demanded withdrawal of the Syrian Democratic Forces of (SDF); the settlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey and their proxy army SNA ("Syrian National Army") in the border strip. There can therefore be no question of a ceasefire such as the one agreed in Sochi at the end of October between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

70 villages in Til Temir occupied already

Til Temir has been under the constant fire of the invading troops for weeks. The region is also known as Little Syria, as many of Syria's ethnic and religious components can be found in the district and its villages. In Til Temir Assyrians, Syriacs, Armenians, Kurds and Arabs live together. Til Temir - in Kurdish: Girê Xurma - was founded by Assyrians, who survived the Simele massacre between 1933-1935, and by the Kurds inside. The Assyrians built the Maryam-al-Azra church and many villages on the banks of the Xabûr (Khabour).

The city is strategically very important due to its location and belongs to the canton of Hesekê. It is only about 30 kilometers away from the city. The distance to Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ain) is 40 kilometers. The Til Temir district consists of 180 villages and is crossed by the M4 highway, an important target for invading troops.

Defense forces such as the Khabour Guards or the Syriac Military Council (MFS) already played an important role in the fight against the "Islamic State" (ISIS) in 2015 in the recapture and self-administration of Christian inhabited areas in Til Temir. At that time also a Christian women's unit of the Khabour Guards was formed to counter the ISIS. Today the fighters resist Turkey.

Madeleine Khamis is a commander of the Khabour Guards. In an interview the experienced commander spoke about the current situation in the region. According to her statements, 70 villages in Til Temir have already been occupied by the Turkish-jihadist invasion troops. Hundreds of Christian families had to leave their homes.

Existence of Syrian Christian population threatened

"Since the beginning of the invasion, we have resisted the occupying forces on the basis of legitimate self-defence. If a no-fly zone had previously been established in northern Syria, Turkey would hardly have been able to occupy our regions. We have repeatedly called on the international community to ensure the immediate closure of airspace. But we have always fallen on deaf ears. The international forces continue to refer to the alleged ceasefire. Turkey and its Islamist proxy army, however, are not complying with the ceasefire", emphasises Khamis.

Between Serêkaniyê and Til Temir the Khabour Guards operate five defensive positions. Syrian army soldiers and members of the MFS also have positions in the region. Khamis mentions that strong troop concentrations are observed in the already occupied villages. "Turkey's proxies are preparing for a major attack. In Til Temir there are a number of strategically important villages such as Til Tewil and Til Werd. In both villages two hills dominate the region. On the other hand, Til Tewil - an Assyrian village - is the first inhabited area on the route between Serêkaniyê and Til Temir so it is intended to be invaded in any case. The village of Til Werd is also important as it is situated on a transit road between Zirgan and Til Temir. We continue to hold our positions and will resist until the end to defend our homes. However, the life of the civilian population is acutely threatened by the attacks," emphasizes Khamis.

Expulsion of Christians in the sense of the Armenian genocide

Turkey has a blood-soaked and dark past, explains Madeleine Khamis. It has a long history full of massacres and genocides and still advocates the legacy of the Ottoman Empire today. With the attacks on the Syriac, Assyrian and Armenian populations of Northeast Syria, the NATO country wants to continue the violent expulsion of Christians in the spirit of the 1915 genocide.

"Our resistance against the neo-Ottoman plans will continue. Our basic duty is to defend our people and lands and we will remain committed to this task to the very end," Khamis affirms.