“Islam or death”

Forced conversions in northern Syria

Islamists controlling the Kurdish region of Afrin in the north of Syria are forcing members of religious minorities to convert to Islam. According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), these forced conversions – for example of the Yazidi minority – have been commonplace since the illegal occupation of the region five years ago. “It is Turkish President Erdogan’s plan to only let Sunni Muslims settle in the Syrian border region with Turkey. Most of the members of other religious denominations have been expelled by his order,” stated Dr. Kamal Sido, Middle East Consultant of the STP, on Monday in Göttingen. “Anyone who refuses to leave is confronted with a brutal Islamization campaign. Non-Muslims are threatened with death if they refuse to convert to Islam.”

The STP verified a video showing a Syrian cleric demanding two men to repeat the Islamic creed. The cleric is a member of a pro-Turkish group that is involved in controlling Afrin on behalf of Turkey. The two victims are Yazidis from the village of Qibar, five kilometers to the north-east of the city of Afrin. “According to our information, the two Yazidis were repeatedly put under pressure and threatened with death. Then, they were given the choice between Islam or death,” Sido reported. “From the viewpoint of the Islamists, Yazidism I not a ‘religion of the book’. For them, only Judaism and Christianity are ‘religions of the book’ in this sense. Members of these religious groups are allowed to practice their faith, but they have to pay protection money to the Muslims. The Yazidi religious community however has no protection.

In this context, the STP would like to reiterate its appeal to the German Federal Government to stop supporting the Islamist forces in Afrin and all of Syria – politically, diplomatically, and especially financially. The militias are to be seen as the armed arm of the pro-Turkish Syrian opposition organization “National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary Forces and the Opposition”. This group can rely on support by Germany’s Foreign Office.

“At the latest since the German Bundestag acknowledged the genocide crimes against the Yazidis, the Foreign Office in Berlin should have terminated its support for the Islamists. The murderous campaign of the so-called “Islamic State” started in Afrin in 2013, instigated by Erdogan, when Islamist militias attacked the first Yazidi villages”, Sido recalled.