FBR Report: Syria: A new Wall, Crucified in Manbij, Who is Your God?5 October, 2016
Here is a report on our relief mission in Syria so far. We are here with our ethnic team from Burma. Thank you for helping us serve.
A wall to keep people out:
Coming into the ruins of Kobane, Northern Syria, we found a city full of life as the people here rebuild from the rubble. The Kurds /YPG along with US air support forced ISIS out of Kobane last year. Then the Kurds forced ISIS west across the Euphrates this summer. We came to give help, hope and love to orphans and IDPS as well as to report on what we see. One of the first things we noticed in Kobane was a wall on the border that the Turks are building. It is only 1 month old and already over 7 kilometers long. In August, the Kurds protested against the wall and the Turks shot and killed two of the protesters dead and wounded 7 others. “It is like we are in a new prison.”, one man told us.
Crucified in Manbij:
After our relief program in Kobane, we went south west and crossed the Euphrates river to the recently liberated town of Manbij. Manbij is a mostly Arab city and traditions run deep. Even with ISIS gone most women dressed in black and had their faces covered. There was more commerce and food here than the Kurdish areas and it seems they found a way to accommodate ISIS . As Sunni Muslims they had faced executions and crucifixions but had been spared the wholesale slaughter ISIS meted out to other areas. “Most people do not like ISIS here but many still do and we do not know who they are”, said a Kurd leader. One thing is sure, the people here have known one oppressive regime after the other and have found a way to survive.
In June we had been on the outskirts of the city helping to treat men, women and children shot by ISIS. ISIS was forced out of Manbij in August but they left behind them a wake of murder, oppression, and destruction. As we walked across the town square we were shown the place where ISIS beheaded people and crucified them The first victim was a 14 year old boy. As we were there, a boy of 12 years walked over to us and told us, “I was here and I saw it all. I saw ISIS take the boy and cut off his head. I saw ISIS decaptiate and then crucify many other people after that. They would put the severed heads at the feet of the bodies they crucified. The bodies would be left up on the crosses for days as a warning to others. I also saw a woman stoned to death here. ISIS forced her son to throw the first stone then others finished her. Where she died is a hole in the concrete where a small tree has grown up. It is a symbol to us of her life and that even the earth cries out for her.”
After this we were led by a villager turned soldier, to a building where he had been imprisoned by ISIS. He showed us where he was hung for days by his hands from the ceiling. “Daesh (ISIS), tortured many people to death here. Down here it was always dark, there was never any light. When they hung me upside down I threw up and it felt like all my internal organs would come out of my mouth. I thought I would die. Later when they transferred my to another prison, I escaped. As broke free and ran I was shot in the ankle. I was able to keep running and escaped. I joined the Kurd militia to stop Daesh.”
The new front line:
The new front line is now west of about 40 mils east of Allepo. The Kurds have been steadily pushing ISIS back but now the lines are static. Turkey has demanded that the Kurds pull out of Manbij and all areas they hold west of the Euphrates river. Last month the Turks invaded northern Syria and took the town of Jarabulas. They threatened the Kurds with more advances if the Kurds did not comply to their demands. The Kurds told us that they do not have support to drive ISIS any further west and are just holding the ground they gained. On this new front line we could see ISIS troops among villagers just 1/2 mile away. They intermingle with villagers for support and protection from airstrikes. ISIS tries to move at night to avoid detection but last night the US dropped 37 bombs on ISIS to our front. Today ISIS shelled back but there were no ground attacks.
Relief, Lions and Lambs:
We met a contingent of US civil affairs and physiological operations forces back in Manbij and they are doing their best to build local capacity and help meet essential needs of the population. US Special Operations forces are also here helping to control airstrikes and support the Syrian Democratic Front of which the Kurds/YPG are the largest force. The US is helping to stop ISIS, save lives and help create opportunities for people of different ethnicities, religions and organizations to work together. Our team has been giving food to the villagers along the font lines with Eliya, Monkey and Shannon providing medical and dental care for all who need. it. Karen and the kids and Bashir our Christian Syria partner, have been doing Good Life Club programs for children and families, sharing about the love of Jesus and giving out toy Lions and Lambs from ATP.
We can breath:
As we did a relief program at a village near the front line, one Syrian we met was a Australian citizen who was back visiting family when ISIS took power. He said that all the borders are closed and he can not safely get out. “When this country was ruled by Assad, we had no freedom. Many of our friends disappeared and we never saw them again. He and his forces are ruthless criminals. Then ISIS came and it was even worse. They killed for no reason and terrorized everyone, especially the woman. Now the are gone and the Kurds – YPG are here. We can breath.”
“How is it with the Kurds, the YPG?”, I asked. He smiled widley and said with a great exhaling of air, “We can finely breath, we can relax. The Kurds are reasonable. We can talk, human to human. We can understand each other. I am so happy for this change. They are doing good.”
Who is your God?
It was late at night in Kobane and we were finishing up a distribution of relief supplies to orphans and widows, when a woman asked one of our team, “Why did you come? Why are you helping us? Bashir answered, “My God sent us to help you.”
“Who is your God?”, the widow asked. Bashir told her, “My God is the one who loves you and sent us to help you. My God is the creator of all and loves us all. He sent His son Jesus to die for us. He helps us help each other.”
Bashir went on to explain his own experience of God’s love and why he came to help. The widow was joined by other widows holding their small children and saying to us, “Thank you, we are so glad you came, it is very good”. We prayed with them and left as friends and fellow children of the God of love.
Thank you all for your love and help,
God bless you, Dave, family and teams