Syriac fighters prove their mettle in battle against ISIL

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

Two fighters raise the Syrian Democratic Forces flag in Manbij, Syria after the city was liberated from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Photo courtesy of the Syriac Union Party]

Two fighters raise the Syrian Democratic Forces flag in Manbij, Syria after the city was liberated from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Photo courtesy of the Syriac Union Party]

Sanharib and Gilgamesh, two military commanders from the Christian Syriac community in Syria, described in detail to Al-Shorfa their participation in the Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF) ongoing battles against the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL).

The Syriac Military Council (MFS) is an effective force in the fight against terrorism, they said, noting that they were among the fighters who entered the city of Manbij in Aleppo province on June 23rd as part of the SDF.

The two men, who preferred to be addressed by their noms de guerre to protect their safety, said their next destination would be ISIL's stronghold of al-Raqa.

Commander Sanharib attributed the participation of Syriac youth in the battle against ISIL to the fact that "we are Syrian citizens and are concerned with the ongoing events in our country".

"We cannot remain silent in the face of [ISIL's] assault on our people, regardless of their sectarian or religious affiliations," he told Al-Shorfa. "We, like others, are concerned with defending our Syrian land and liberating it from terrorism."

United front against ISIL

"The MFS, which emanated from the Syriac Union Party in early 2013, had to be formed in order to defend our rights as Syriacs, Assyrians and members of other faiths to confront terrorist organisations," he said. "To that end, we came under the banner of the SDF, and united we are waging our war on the terrorism of ISIL and other groups."

Sanharib said he was overwhelmed when he witnessed the raising of the SDF flag in Manbij. "Residents greeted us with joy and roses while they took off the clothes that ISIL forced them to wear."

"I had tears of joy in my eyes from this emotional scene, and felt that I had accomplished an important achievement by liberating them from terrorism, along with my fellow Arab and Kurdish fighters," he said, adding that his forces would continue to defend Syrians wherever they are.

Syriac Union Party chairman Ibrahim Murad attributed the participation of Syriac youth in the fight against ISIL to the fact that Syriacs are a military force to be reckoned with.

"We have 2,500 fighters confronting ISIL, 350 female fighters in the MFS Women Protection Forces, in addition to the Sutoro Forces [the Syriac Security Office] and the SDF," he told Al-Shorfa.

One Syria

"Our forces are currently in Manbij, and they also have a presence on the al-Hawl fronts and in all areas where ISIL poses a threat to the Syrian people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds," Murad said.

The objective of these forces is "to end terrorism, bring peace to Syria and its people, build a pluralistic democratic state that respects all segments of society, and create a new democratic system in which all are equal before the law and in rights and duties", he said.

He also noted the essential role of Syriac and Kurdish women, saying they have made major sacrifices and have proven their worthiness in the fight against terrorism.

"We count on Syriac women to raise an open-minded and aware generation that knows the meaning and dangers of extremism and terrorism," he said.

'No place for sectarianism'

Commander Gilgamesh said his participation as a Syriac military fighter "in the fight against ISIL and terrorism is a patriotic duty to my Syrian countrymen, regardless of their sectarian or religious affiliation".

"We are on hand whenever the need arises and wherever there is a threat to residents," he told Al-Shorfa, confirming that they have "achieved important battlefield successes against this terrorist group [...] after it had subjected [people] to the worst kinds of mental and physical torture."

"We are Syrian youth who reject what is happening and the terrorism that ISIL is inflicting on our people," Gilgamesh said. "Our joy comes from the joy of citizens whom we liberate from this injustice and tyranny."

"We are in this battle as Syrians, and there is no place for sectarianism."

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After liberating Raqqa, you will definitely aim to liberate Damascus and toppling of Bashar Al-Assad, or you will try to prepare yourself to replace ISIS and to fight against the Syrian regime.