Two Aramean (Syriac) Christians killed, five others injured in Northeast Syria

Father Hoseb Bedoian (born Ibrahim Hanna Bedo), during a service at the Armenian Catholic Church in Qamishli.

Father Hoseb Bedoian (born Ibrahim Hanna Bedo), during a service at the Armenian Catholic Church in Qamishli.

WCA – 13/11/2019

Yesterday, two Arameans (Syriacs) were killed on the road from Qamishli to Deir Ezzor by two unidentified gunmen. The two victims were a priest of the Armenian Catholic Church in Qamishli and his father. A few hours later, three big explosives went off in Qamishli, killing several civilians and injuring a dozen of others, including five Aramean Christians.

Driving southward from Qamishli to Deir Ezzor, the largest city of East Syria, the car of Fr. Hoseb Abraham Bedoian was soon overtaken by two unknown persons on a motorcycle around 11:30-12:00 a.m. local time. They suddenly stopped in front of the car and began firing at the vehicle. Fr. Hoseb and his father were killed, while a deacon in the same car was able to escape. The priest went some seven times before to Deir Ezzor to restore the homes and shops of the local Armenian Catholics. Until yesterday’s fatal moment, each time he was escorted by forces of the Syrian Arab Army during the 4-hour drive. This time, however, seeing that relative peace had recently returned to the region, the priest decided to visit Deir Ezzor without security.

The Aramean Fr. Hoseb (1978-2019), whose Aramaic birth name is Ibrahim Hanna Bedo, was married to an Armenian Catholic, whom he left behind with their three children (two daughters and a son who is currently in Armenia). After joining the Armenian Catholic Church in Qamishli, he was later consecrated priest. (As an aside, the paternal cousin of Fr. Hoseb, Aho, is a deacon in the Syriac Orthodox Mor Jacob of Nisibin Church in Qamishli. He was set to get married on 29 November and soon after he would be consecrated as its priest. Fr. Hoseb and his father will be sadly missed at these two historical ceremonies of their cousin and nephew, respectively.)

On the same day, between 2:30-2:45 p.m., three bombs attached to motorbikes (least controlled vehicles passing checkpoints) were detonated with a remote control in Qamishli with an interval of about 5 minutes. The first one went off in Qaddurbek, a mainly Kurdish district far away from the city and where it is not crowded with people. The second explosion was in the heart of the city market where Christians also possess property. Five Arameans got injured and were treated in the Salaam Hospital. One of them, Suheil Hejame, who owns a clothes store, got wounded and his shop was destroyed; he is the brother of Robert, one of the nine Arameans killed (in the Miami Restaurant) in the three bomb attacks that targeted Aramean businesses in a predominantly Christian quarter in Qamishli on 30 December 2015.

At a distance of about 400 meters, a third explosion went off on the general road that passes the Qadsiye school, which is adjacent to the Chaldean Catholic Church. There, too, a few Aramean real estate properties were damaged, including a barber shop of one WCA’s local members, but no Christian casualties have been reported in this case. As a consequence of the three bomb attacks in Qamishli yesterday, many reports state that eight persons lost their lives, while some locals suspect that up to 30 people were killed. Over 50 persons were injured.

In past years, similar bombs in vehicles and motorcycles went off in or nearby Qamishli. For instance, on 11 July, a car bomb exploded close to the Syriac Orthodox St. Mary Church in Qamishli. Most local Arameans believe that the YPG Kurds were behind most of those attacks. Regarding yesterday’s explosives, one of WCA’s sources explained on condition of anonymity: “After many years of living with the Kurds, we have come to learn that they are capable of doing everything and stop at nothing just to scare us away from our homeland so that they can seize our homes, our shops, and our land. We are fully convinced of this.”

Another source, who also requested anonymity, added: “It can be Arabs, who may or may not be linked to ISIS, retaliating against the YPG’s mistreatment in the recent years. However, it can also be Kurds who want to frighten the Christians, put the blame on others and falsely claim that everything was safe and secure when they were ruling Northeast Syria until recently. The Arameans are again caught in the crossfire of the Kurds who clash with others in our region.” In this particular case, however, it remains as yet unclear who is behind the bomb attacks.