Despite the lack of Christmas festivities in Qamishli, many of the northeastern Syrian city’s Christians are still visible, especially in the predominantly Christian neighborhoods.
Christians in Qamishli celebrate Christmas in light of the tension witnessed by the region. Ankara has hinted that it will continue its attacks on areas under the control of the “Syrian Democratic Forces east of the Euphrates River, in addition to the city of Manbij, west of the Euphrates”, despite the announcement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week to “postpone the military operation” expected in northern Syria.
One of the residents of Qamishli who celebrates Christmas told Al Arabiya English that: “there is no one left here, for seven years now, people have been carrying their bags and migrating. It’s almost deserted here after so many people left the country”.
He pointed out that “Christmas is still celebrated in Qamishli modestly and with limited possibilities”.
The Christian neighborhoods of Qamishli were hit by a series of bombings, most of which were claimed by ISIS. However, some have insisted on staying and celebrating charismas. ISIS has also kidnapped Christians from the city, with residents from their villages near the town of Tel Tamer in the countryside of Qamishli being forced to emigrate outside the country out of fear.
Most of the interviewees complain of "family dispersion" during the Christmas holidays. Migration as a result of the war in Syria has been one of the main reasons that has divided families in more than one country, which has left parents, especially the elderly, in loneliness.
The situation for Christmas in Aleppo is no different from those hailing from Qamishli, but residents in both cities have said they suffer from a rise in the prices of decorations, clothing and desserts in general. This has compounded the already existing dilemma of celebrating Christmas apart from family members who have sought refuge abroad.
“I have no friends left in Aleppo, most of them have emigrated and I want to join them,” a young man told Al Arabiya English.
He added: “I personally cannot afford the cost of traveling abroad, but I'm working on it.”
Another young man added: “I almost cannot recognize the streets anymore because of the war in Aleppo. Those who remained in the country despite the current circumstances are also seeking immigration."
Throughout Syria, Christians are subjected to harassment by extremist organizations, their celebrations are almost exclusively taking place in areas controlled by the Syrian regime and the Syrian Democratic Forces. In Idlib, the Nusra Front, known as the Sham Liberation Organization and al-Qaeda’s arm in Syria, prevents them from celebrating Christmas. The same is true in the various areas of influence of the Syrian armed opposition.
"There are Christian villages, whose residents have not yet left, but they have promised the Nusra Front to not practice their religious rites," said a Syrian journalist from rural Idlib.
In late November, the Nusra Front in Idlib announced the confiscation of properties belonging to the Christian minority; the city being the main stronghold of the Syrian armed opposition. It has also expelled most of them from the city after the arrest of some of them and the assassination of a number others.