The Christians of Raqqa have risen to fight against ISIS

Dozens of Syriac-Assyrian Christians have united to fight ISIS militants in Raqqa, Syria, driven by a desire to protect their homeland and rid the region of Jihadi extremists for the first time in over 3 years. This video follows Aboud Sourian, the leader of the Syriac military council, and his units as they progress into the city.

ISIS has been operating from Raqqa, one of its two major strongholds, since 2014. However, the terrorist group is now losing ground as the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) close in on the city. IS could be defeated within months, officials have said, as forces cut off militants’ last remaining escape route last week.

Thousands of Syriac Christians once lived in Raqqa alongside Armenians, Kurds and the city’s mainly Sunni Arab population, but many fled when ISIS overran the city. After the group declared an “Islamic caliphate” in the Raqqa it said Christians could remain – if they paid a special tax (Jizya) or converted to Islam. Instead of complying, many fled. Reports suggest that in both Syria and Iraq, where ISIS became most prominent, 50-80% of Christians fled the two countries since 2011, when the destructive civil war in Syria began.

Aboud stresses that there is no difference between the Syriacs, the Kurds and the Arabs, and affirmed that ISIS are the real enemy. “they haven’t left any of the churches in Raqqa standing. They destroyed and blew up everything. The Christians who are here were forced to convert to Islam”, he explained.

While thousands of ISIS fighters are believed to have fled Raqqa into the group’s territory to the south, remaining members of the terrorist group have increased its use of suicide bombers and roadblocks in the city. The group is replicating similar tactics used in their stronghold of Mosul, which they are on the verge of losing.