By Muhieddeen Hamish
A BBC Arabic report revealed that Christian European fighters are flocking to Syria to fight alongside the Kurdish factions in the face of al-Qaeda groups.
The report pointed out that the conflict is no longer confined to jihadist groups fighting alongside the Syrian opposition under the banner of Jabhat al-Nusra or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), but a recent phenomenon saw the participation of Christian young men who left European countries to join the armed groups in Syria.
The report cited a group calling itself Sotoro, which is fighting in the Hassakeh province in northeastern Syria alongside Kurdish factions against al-Qaeda gunmen.
According to the report, the Agenfor Group has been following this issue and has uncovered these groups. This phenomenon is the first of its kind because the groups that have been flocking to Syria have been al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic groups.
Sergio Bianchi, head of the Swiss Agenfor center, said, “There are different Christian visions in the region. While some [Christians] support [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad, others support the Free Syrian Army, and others are fighting for autonomy.”
Regarding Sotoro, Bianchi said, “The name of this group goes back to ancient Aramaic. One of the trainers in this group is a former sergeant in the Swiss Army named Johan Kosar. He is one of the volunteers among the European Christians.” Bianchi added, “Kosar is of Syriac origins and Turkish roots. He grew up in Syria. He left Locarno, Switzerland, to go to Qamishli. He holds three passports.”
“There are other Swiss nationals having various capabilities and skills, alongside Germans and Swedes,” said Bianchi.
The report stated, “The Syriac minority in Europe views the participation of those persons [in the Syrian war] as aimed at defending the Christians, but [the Syriacs] don’t hide their concerns about how [the fighters] will be treated when they return to their home countries.”
Yasem Otblogim, spokesman for the Rafidain Cultural Center in Locarno, said there is “no precise figure” of European Christians in Syria, but that “there are 10 or 20 Europeans.” He stressed that “the numbers are not that high anyway.” He pointed out that the fighters “came to defend the Syriac presence in Syria, and we don’t want them to be treated as mercenaries when they return to their home countries.”
Media and foreign intelligence reports revealed that foreign nationals, mostly from European countries, are fighting alongside the Syrian opposition, the armed Islamic battalions and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.
European countries have promised to take strict measures toward their nationals who are fighting in the ranks of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
Britain vowed to try and jail residents who go to fight abroad regardless of their nationalities. France alluded to holding accountable any citizen who leaves to train and fight overseas under penalty of law. Belgium left the matter to the municipalities, which have the power to delete the name of any citizen from the population’s civil registry, and thus deprive him or her of social grants.
Although the number of foreign fighters in the Syrian war is not precise, Western intelligence sources estimate them to be in the thousands, coming from neighboring countries, Central Asia, the Caucasus and even Europe and the United States.
Translated by Rani Geha.
© 2014 Assyrian International News Agency.