Steven Sahiounie, political commentator
Note: this is part 1 of a 2 part investigation of the FSA, Turkey and their connection to the murder of a Syrian Priest and his father.
Father Hovsep Bedoyan, the head of the Armenian Catholic community in Qamishli, and the priest’s father, Abraham Bedoyan, were killed November 11, on the road leading from Qamishli to Deir Ez Zor, were they were headed to check on the rebuilding of the Forty Martyr’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Deir Ezzor, which was destroyed in 2014 by terrorists who targeted Christians and churches. Deacon Fati Sano of the Al-Hasakeh church was injured in the attack when the car was ambushed at a checkpoint by masked gunmen on motorcycles, which shot at point-blank range. The car they drove was inscribed with the Armenian Church’s logo. The same day, a series of bomb blasts in Qamishli occurred, targeting the Armenian Catholic church, an Assyrian Christian-owned business, and a Catholic school, killing at least 6 people and wounded 22 others. More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians lived in Syria, mainly in the province of Aleppo prior to 2011; however, after the constant targeting of Christians by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) beginning in 2011, thousands have fled and many hundreds went to Armenia, who offered the Syrians a visa, when most of the world had shut its doors to them.
Tens of thousands of Christians from the Assyrian minority fled attacks in 2015, and have not returned. Christians in Homs were targeted very early in 2011 by the FSA, with churches attacked, burned and priests killed. Christians in Damascus were dodging missiles fired into Bab Touma from terrorists, in East Ghouta, until the Syrian Arab Army defeated them and they could walk again safely on the “street called straight”, from Bible passages about Saint Paul. In September 2012, the large Christian neighborhood in Aleppo, Azizia, fought the FSA, with Christian civilians holding arms to defend their homes and churches. George, an Armenian Christian of Aleppo said, “The Armenians are fighting because they believe the FSA are sent by their Turkish oppressors to attack them, the Christians want to defend their neighborhoods.” “FSA snipers were on the rooftops and they were attacking the Maronite church and Armenian residents there,” said a former clergyman calling himself John. A Syrian Armenian mother said, “They are shouting ‘the Alawites to the graves and the Christians to Beirut.”
While many Syrian Christians have resisted leaving Syria, for the life of a refugee abroad, many have gone even though they were living in safe areas, such as the coast. They saw their Christian countrymen leaving in large numbers, and they feared that the FSA terrorists that the Obama administration was supporting would win, and in that case, they could never live safely in Syria.
Father Hovsep Bedoyan had been visiting Deir Ez Zor every 2 weeks while overseeing the rebuilding of the church there. The France-based association, L’Oeuvre d’Orient, is a Catholic charity aimed at reconstructing infrastructure for the return of the Christian community. Monseigneur Pascal Gollnisch, the group’s head, pointed at Turkey’s recent invasion of Northern Syria: “It is the responsibility of all occupying forces to protect the safety of the local Christian minority.” he insisted.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said, “At the time of the Ottoman Empire the Syrian people saved so many Armenians. Therefore, at a time, when Syrians suffer, we could not stand aside. I am happy that we can honor our moral debt.” Armenian doctors and mine-clearance specialists have been carrying out humanitarian missions in Syria since February 2019. When asked about the recent Turkish invasion, Pashinyan said, “We have condemned it. We believe that the international community must take action so that the Turkish forces in Syria today are brought back to the Turkish territory.” He added, “More than a century after the genocide, Turkey is still perceived by the Armenians as a possible threat to our security.” The Armenian Foreign Ministry’s statement placed the blame of the Priest’s death on the Turkish military occupation of the region. The Armenian government, for its part, pledged to continue its humanitarian assistance to the Syrian Armenian community.
The United Nations (UN) estimates that almost 200,000 people have been displaced by the Turkish invasion, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring”, while eyewitness accounts of summary executions, beatings, and torture, unlawful detention, and kidnappings by the Turkish military and the FSA, who are Radical Islamic terrorists, employed as mercenaries.
The FSA is the Turkish backed terrorists/mercenaries
“It was sadly learned that a cleric from the Syrian Armenian community was killed in a vicious attack in the area under the control of the terrorist organization PYD/YPG/PKK,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a written statement, which deflected responsibility, and blamed the Syrian Kurds who had been allied to the US, and denying their own FSA mercenaries were the actual killers. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the killings, but the FSA and ISIS are allies, and sources close to the events on the ground have said it was the FSA who killed them, and ISIS only issued the claim of responsibility to shield the blame from the FSA.
FSA history in Syria and sectarianism
The FSA and its political wing, the SNC, have never been secular or moderate. The founding members of the SNC and FSA were members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their goal for Syria has always been to establish an Islamic government, thus abolishing the secular Ba’ath Party as well as the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP).
“The Free Syrian Army practically doesn’t exist,” Kamal Sido, a Mideast expert at the human rights group Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk broadcaster. “The Free Syrian Army is a smokescreen hiding various names, and if you look at the names, at these groups’ videos, you’ll find they are radical Islamist, Jihadist groups.”
The FSA was not only fighting the Syrian government but were killing, raping, maiming and kidnapping unarmed Syrian civilians, most of whom were Sunni Muslims, like themselves. On July 20, 2017, President Trump cut the CIA’s covert program to equip and train the FSA. The CIA program began in 2013 by Obama to overthrow President Assad; however, CIA officials observed that many FSA had joined ISIS and other radical groups, and feared the weapons they gave the group might end up with ISIS.