Updated: Friday, 15th February 2019 @ 12:37pm

No ‘safe haven’ for Syria's Christian community: Manchester lecturer analyses dilemma of Aleppo’s refugees

No ‘safe haven’ for Syria's Christian community: Manchester lecturer analyses dilemma of Aleppo’s refugees

By Mihaela Ivantcheva

No neighbouring country can offer Syria’s Christian refugees a ‘safe haven’, a Manchester University lecturer is claiming, as fighting rages on in the northern city of Aleppo.

Neither Turkey nor Lebanon can offer secure refuge to Aleppo’s Christian population and the prospects of Syria’s division between Sunni and Shi’ite threatens Syrian Christian’s freedom, analyses Dr Emma Loosley, Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester.

Dr Loosley, an archaeologist and historian, who lived in a monastic community in Syria for three years, said: “It it is inconceivable that any neighbouring nation – especially Turkey – can offer a safe haven for Christian refugees.”

She said that most Christians were descended from twentieth-century refugees from what is now Turkey, fleeing from the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and its aftermath. According to her, Aleppo has now Syria’s largest Christian population.

“Many of Aleppo’s Christians remember their parents and grandparents recounting stories of what happened. The Syrian Orthodox population who spoke an Armenian dialect in Edessa and inter-married with their Armenian neighbours, lost hundreds of thousands in the massacres,” she said.

“More recent immigrants have fled, almost to the present day, to avoid the cultural genocide of their people as the Turkish government have forbidden them to teach their children in their own language, Turoyo, a modern Syriac dialect, and have done everything they can to obstruct Christian worship.

“So there is no over-estimating the trauma inflicted by the Ottoman Empire and early Turkish Republic on the Christians of Syria. It is misguided to expect Syrian Christians to see Turkey as a place of refuge from the current civil war.”

Dr Loosley’s analysis goes on to say that Lebanon remained ‘an unpalatable choice‘ for Syrian Christians due to anti-Syrian feelings among many sectors of Lebanese society.

“While the West seeks to draw Turkey ever closer into military alliances and the EU dangles the carrot of European Union membership in front of the Turkish government, the periodic insistence of the French Government in asking for recognition of the Armenian Genocide is pushed under the carpet by other nations,” she said.

Dr Loosley thinks that the passivity of the Christian community is caused by ‘fear and psychological trauma’.

“Some believe that Syria will be ultimately divided into Sunni and Shi’ite ‘spheres of influence’. This is terrifying for Christians, who believe the resulting Saudi, Iranian and Turkish influences would end their freedom to worship and full citizenship of Syrian society,” she added.

Latest news from the embattled city of Aleppo says that intense explosions have erupted along Syria's border with Turkey as fighting between rebels and the Assad regime continues to rage.

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