SYRIA – Europe needs to be better informed – Bishop Khazen dispels some myths


Bishop Georges Abou Khazen OFM of Aleppo explains what the situation in his country  is in reality and  points out that the views held by Europeans are wrong. He believes foreigners are misinformed and that “Europe should not draw false conclusions”. Bishop Khazen belongs to the Franciscan Order and took office as Vicar Apostolic in the hard-fought northern Syrian city of Aleppo in the middle of the war in November 2013.

“The Russian intervention has unmasked the comedy of the American intervention. When the Americans and their allies bombed, Islamic State continued to expand until it took over up to 50 percent of the country. As soon as the Russians began to bomb, Islamic state was finally forced to retreat from the occupied territories. ” With these words Mgr Khazen outlined the situation in Syria.

Since the beginning of 2016, the Syrian army was able to interrupt the supply line of the Islamists from Turkey and recapture larger parts of the city. The battle for the city is not yet decided. With the help of the Russian air support, however, the pro-government troops could turn the tide in their favour. There is currently a ceasefire.

Bishop Khazen has no doubt about the merit of the Syrian-Russian cooperation. He praises the Russian military intervention in Syria and the advance of the Syrian army: “The advance of our soldiers guarantees greater security for all residents of the city and gives some hope for the first time. Prior to this initiative, the shells and missiles of the rebels came down on the city and killed more than ten civilians every day. For half a year we had no electricity. The regular water supply was out of operation for two months. Now everything is returning to normal again. “

“On which side we should be in your opinion? With Al-Nusra and the IS or the Russians? But the most important result of the Russian intervention is the peace process. For the first time in five years, a dialogue between the warring parties began and led to a cease-fire, ” he added.

When told that that European media accuse the Syrian army of “besieging” Aleppo, Bishop Khazen replied:     “In Europe, you should inform yourselves better … Here the exact opposite is true: Where the regular Syrian army goes, people no longer flee, but return to their homes.”

“I do not know if they do not know the truth or follow a kind of ‘official’ truth. The fact is that the Syrian army is a regular force, whose mission is to protect its own civilians. Should they leave the city in the hands of the Islamic State or al-Qaeda? For us, the arrival of the Syrian army signifies liberation. Where it takes control, begin life again. In many places the children could not attend school anymore, for the last three or four years. No sooner had the army liberated those places than regular classes started again. If this is what a siege is supposed to be , then they are welcome. “

Bishop Khazen also commented on the “wrong conclusion”drawn in Europe that the Christians of Aleppo are for Bashar al-Assad:

“We Christians are not for Bashar al-Assad. We are for the basic values of coexistence and tolerance, a Syrian representative in the Middle East an oasis of diversity, in which 23 different, historic ethnic and religious communities can live together. Do you want only one colour in Europe? Do you want the black flag [the Islamic State]?”

The Bishop maintains that it was not the Russian military intervention that provoked the wave of refugee that came to Europe last year. In fact the intervention pushed many rebel fighters to pursue the path of dialogue and reconciliation, give up the armed struggle and work with the government.

Peace, he claims, is the only solution to the refugee problem: “You Europeans should finally understand: If there is peace here in Syria, then you have no more refugee problem “. “You must know: Syria has not produced refugees in the past – we received refugees from other countries. So if you Europeans really want to solve the refugee problem, then reconsider your Middle East policy and work for peace in Syria. “

Bishop Khazen  appeals to the Europeans and especially the Christians of Europe:

“It is necessary that all contribute to the continuation of the peace process  that has now been initiated. The governments that have supported groups who have come to Syria to fight, they have to ask them to stop. You must urge them to seek a peaceful solution through dialogue.”

ACN Malta