Iranian General Soleimani Did Not Help Free Assyrian Hostages Held By ISIS

AINA – 14/2/2020

(AINA) — Several news agencies in Iran have published a story claiming that Assyrians are “indebted to General Soleimani” for his help in securing the release of Assyrians captured in Syria by ISIS in 2015. The Fars News Agency (FNA) has a story with the headline Senior MP: Assyrian Society Indebted to General Soleimani. The Iranian FrontPage agency has a story with the headline Assyrian Christians Indebted to Qassem Soleimani: MP.

Quoting Yonatan Betkelia, the Assyrian MP in the Iranian Parliament, FNA stated:

He [Yonatan Betkelia] explained that nearly 300 Assyrian people in Syria were held captive by the ISIL and General Soleimani released 225 of them, adding that 75 of them had earlier been killed by the terrorists. Betkelia also added that when the ISIL had attacked Erbil in Iraq in which over 30,000 Assyrians live, General Soleimani’s presence forced the terrorists to withdraw and he rescued the lives of 30,000 people.

ISIS never attacked Erbil in Iraq. ISIS captured Mosul in 2014, and in 2015 attacked the Assyrian villages in the Nineveh Plains, north and east of Mosul, including the city of Baghdede (Qaraqosh), the largest Assyrian city in Iraq with a population of 50,000. The ISIS push into the Nineveh Plains caused nearly 200,000 Assyrians to flee their homes and villages. To date, less than half have returned.

Related: Timeline of ISIS in Iraq

In Syria, on February 23, 2015 ISIS attacked 35 Assyrian villages on the Khabur River, in the Hasaka province, capturing 253 Assyrians. In the following year all but 4 of the hostages were released upon payment of ransom. Three were executed in an ISIS video and one girl was forcefully married to an ISIS member and has never been released.

Related: Attacks on Assyrians in Syria By ISIS and Other Muslim Groups

The negotiations to release the Assyrian hostages were conducted by Assyrian Bishop Aprim Athniel of Syria (see here). General Soleimani had no role in this process.

ISIS also captured 250 Assyrians in Qaryatain, Syria (AINA 2015-10-14), of which 21 were executed. The release of the others had no involvement from General Soleimani or any other Iranian officials.

© 2020 Assyrian International News Agency.

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