On 11 November 2019, the Armenian priest Hovsep Petoyan and his father Hana Abraham Petoyan were killed by ISIS terrorists as they traveled from Qamishli to Deir ez-Zour.
The death of Father Hovsep Petoyan has sent shockwaves amongst the people of Qamishli in northern Syria. The news of his murder was especially difficult to accept for the local Armenian community who greatly respected him as a religious figure and simply as a human being who fell at the hands of terrorists.
Father Petoyan, who was the Pastor of the Armenian Catholic Community of Qamishli, was known to be travelling with his father from Qamishli to Deir ez-Zour in order to assist in the rehabilitation of the Armenian Church that was destroyed there. Nevertheless, Dr Serop Azarian, who attended the ceremony, asserted that “he wasn’t going just for the Church in Deir ez-Zour, but to help the Muslims, Christians and Arabs. He was an example to all of humanity.”
A funeral ceremony was recently held at the Armenian Catholic Church in Qamishli as locals bid Father Petoyan farewell. According to tradition, he was buried under the altar of the Church.
Local residents and attendees of the funeral ceremony were full of praise for Father Petoyan and condemned the heinous crime committed against him. They were especially in awe of his humanistic character and respect for all humans regardless of sect, religion and background:
“He was a great and humble man, always looking to do good. He didn’t discriminate between Christians, Muslims or any other human from other religions. All of them are equals [in his mind]. He always wanted the best [for everyone]. It’s not just me saying. Muslims also say this”, noted Adnan Mihran.
Khajurian reiterated the point that “he was serving everyone. He didn’t differentiate between Christians and Muslims.”
Father Petoyan is said to have been killed on the Hasakah-Deir ez-Zour Highway. His murder was claimed by ISIS on its affiliated media outlet Amaq. The attack was confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The already dwindling Christian communities of Syria have been found themselves in an even more precarious situation since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. ISIS has frequently claimed attacks against Christians and other minorities in Syria.
Most of the Christian communities in northern and eastern Syria currently live under the governance of the Autonomous Administration of North and Eastern Syria. The recent Turkish-backed military offensive in the region dubbed “Operation Peace Spring” has led to reports of violations against Christians living near the expanding “safe-zone” stretching from territories around Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ayn.