The Hassekeh province from which the hostages were taken on Monday, is inhabited predominantly by Assyrians, an indigenous Christian people who trace their roots to ancient Mesopotamians. Everyone in Syria knows this. These people have lived here for centuries. Up to150 Assyrian Christians were captured and abducted on Monday. Today is Wednesday here, and the expectation is that IS (ISIS) will release a video threatening the lives of these hostages, unless the U.S. led coalition halts airstrikes and withdraws combatants.
At least 3,000 Assyrians escaped to cities of refuge, but they lack necessities of life. In fact, 600 families are staying in St. Mary's Cathedral in al-Hasakah, Syria. The call has now come from activist groups to people all over the world to protect these Assyrians in Syria.
There is always more to a story than news stories in the West relate in a few paragraphs. Kurdish militias have controlled the northeastern region of Syria and the villages had for a long time been left alone. Lately however, the Islamic State fighters began to exert power. In early February, Islamic State fighters had demanded that crosses be removed from churches. Some Christians, not wanting to be victimized like northern Iraq’s Christians and other minority sects like the Yazidis who were singled out by the Islamic State, decided to take a more assertive role by fighting alongside Kurdish and other militias. For that reason in recent weeks, many villages changed hands as the Kurdish groups, some Arab Muslim factions and a Christian group called the Syriac Military Council joined forces against the Islamic State. When jihadists raided the village of Tel Hermez, driving out a local group called the Guardians of Khabur, who were protecting churches, Kurdish militias together with fighters from the Syriac Military Council entered the town, filming themselves retaking the area and leading away bound men they said were Islamic State members. This seizure of hostages appears to be retaliation by IS, yet it has a distinctly religious motivation.