Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 654 | Wed 20 July 2022
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by Elizabeth Kendal

Territorial Map – Jan 2020
(click on map to enlarge)
For a detailed map dated 31 May 2022
see Etana Syria

On 23 May Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Turkey was preparing to re-invade northern Syria to resume its efforts to create a ‘safe zone’. When launched in October 2019, Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring sought to establish a ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria 32km deep (thus incorporating the M4 highway) and 444km in length, thus giving Turkey control of the entire length of the Turkey-Syria border. In October 2019, the US stepped aside and Turkey invaded with international jihadist proxies and the ethnic cleansing was brutal [see RLPB 524, Chaos Unleashed, Christians Imperilled, 16 Oct 2019]. To save lives, Russia brokered a deal whereby it agreed to facilitate the withdrawal of Kurdish YPG forces from the proposed ‘safe zone’. While Turkey set up bases in the territory it had captured between Ain Issa and Tel Tamr, Russian military police and Syrian border guards replaced YPG forces in the remaining border regions [see RLPB 526 (30 Oct 2019)]. What Turkey wants to do now is complete its proposed ‘safe zone’, purportedly to keep Turkey safe from Kurdish YPG ‘terrorists’, but mostly so it can repatriate around one million of Turkey’s 3.6 million Syrian refugees whose presence has become a burden for the restive and economically-challenged Turkish state.

West of the Euphrates, in Aleppo Governorate – where Afrin and much of the northern countryside fell to Turkey in early 2018 [RLPB 447 (21 March 2018)] – Turkey essentially wants to fill the gaps by seizing Tal Rifaat and Manbij. According to the Jerusalem Post (24 June), ‘Turkish-associated Islamist military groups in northern Syria have already formed military councils which are intended to rule Manbij and Tal Rifaat after their conquest.’ Such an eventuality would put the city of Aleppo – home to a brave, enduring Church and a struggling Christian remnant – at serious risk of Islamic terror.  


Qamishli: Palm Sunday 10 April 2022
Holy Week starts with scouts’ parade,
followed at 6pm by prayer service.
For photo gallery see:
Syrian Observatory of Human Rights
(17 April 2022)

East of the Euphrates, the ‘safe zone’ project would see Turkey advance deep into Syria’s north-eastern Hasakah Governorate, threatening Hasakah Governorate’s second largest city, the historically Christian city of Qamishli. 

Located on the Khabur River, at the intersection of the M4 Highway and the road linking the city of al-Hasakah to the border crossing at Ras al-Ayn, Tel Tamr stands on the front-line of Turkey’s war for North-East Syria. Since October 2019 Tel Tamr – an historically Assyrian town among a string of historically Assyrian towns established in the 1930s by genocide survivors – has endured non-stop shelling and terror. From Turkish bases in northern Syria, Turkish troops and their jihadist proxies launch attacks into neighbouring Syrian districts for the purpose of extortion, abduction, murder and crop burning. According to the Assyrian Commander of the Tel Tamr Military Council, Khabur Akkad, Turkey has been building up its forces around Tal Tamr since late June. The build-up has caused the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria to declare a state of emergency. It has also led the Council of Christian Churches in Gozarto (Jazira) and Euphrates to issue a statement publicly condemning Turkish aggression. According to Commander Khabur Akkad, ‘Our only option is resistance… We are ready to resist until our last breath.’ For, as Jamila Kaku, an Assyrian citizen from Tal Tamr district explains, there is no difference between the Turkish occupation army and the Islamic State militants who overran the area in 2015.

Currently, Turkey is out looking for a ‘green light’ – for permission to go ahead with its invasion. At this stage however, no-one wants to see Turkish aggression in northern Syria, fearing any destablisation will serve the purposes of a re-energised Islamic State (IS). Some 10,000 IS fighters and 50,000 IS family members are currently detained in Kurdish-run camps and prisons in Hasakah Governorate. On 20 January IS staged an audacious prison break at al-Sina’a Prison in Ghwayran on the southern outskirts of al-Hasakah city. After a ten day battle, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – comprising Kurds, non-Islamist Syrian Arabs and Assyrian and Armenian Christians – managed to regain control (with support from US and British troops). However, by that time, ‘scores, maybe hundreds of prisoners had escaped’, and around 140 SDF soldiers and most of the prison guards had been killed. The security situation facing remnant Christians in northern Syria is extremely fragile, threatening, and existential.


* intervene in and for Syria to facilitate peace for the sake of peaceful Syrians and especially for the sake of Syria’s enduring, remnant Church. Lord have mercy!

* protect, sustain, guide and encourage Syria’s suffering and imperilled Christians who have survived war and remained in their homeland only to find themselves languishing under sanctions or facing the prospect of renewed terror and displacement. Lord have mercy!

* supply every need of the numerous Christian churches and Christian ministries that are providing services and care to Syria’s poor, sick, hungry, threatened and displaced. Kyrie eleison; Lord have mercy!

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love… The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down… The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth… The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. (Psalm 145:8, 14, 18 and 20 ESV).


Turkey is threatening to re-invade northern Syria to create what it calls a ‘safe zone’. When Turkey and its jihadist proxies invaded in early 2018, they captured, ethnically cleansed and colonised the northern reaches of Aleppo Governorate. When the same forces invaded north-east Syria in October 2019, they captured territory between Ain Issa and Tal Tamr. Turkey now wants to complete its proposed 32 km deep ‘safe zone’ along the entire Turkey-Syrian border. The zone would be ethnically cleansed and repopulated with around one million of Turkey’s 3.6 million Syrian refugees. If enacted, the plan would see hundreds of thousands of Kurds, Syrian Arabs and Christians (mostly Assyrians and Armenians) killed and displaced. It would massively destabilise north-east Syria, creating perfect conditions for a revival of Islamic State. Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate for the persecuted Church. To support this ministry visit

Elizabeth has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016). She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

For more information visit:

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