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Damascus Street Scenes (B-roll)
Damascus, Syria
By TTM Contributor 4
21 Sep 2015

Various shots of streets and the old market in the government-controlled part of Damascus, Syria.

Note: Interview with Damascus residents about life in the city (not translated)

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Jerusalem: the Birthplace of Monotheism
Jerusalem
By Noe Falk Nielsen
20 Apr 2015

The old city of Jerusalem contains the holiest places for two major monotheistic religions and the third holiest place for a third. The old city of Jerusalem contains the Wailing Wall, the holiest site for Jews; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is said to stand on the ground where Jesus was crucified, interred, and later resurrected; and the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is one of the oldest mosques in Islam and represents the place where the prophet arrived on his nightly journey from Mecca. Al-Aqsa is regarded as the third holiest place in Islam, after Mecca and Medina.


Together, these religious sites hold significance for approximately four billion Christians, Muslims and Jews around the world. 

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Iraq: Swiss Priest Cares for Christia...
Sulaimaniya, Iraq
By Nils Metzger
02 Apr 2015

In August 2014, the Islamic State captured a number of Iraqi Christian towns in the area surrounding Mosul, among them Karakosh, the largest Iraqi city with a Christian majority. Most of its 50,000 inhabitants fled within a couple of hours on August and left most of their belongings behind. Today, more than 100,000 of the already shrinking population of Iraqi Christians have become internally displaced persons (IDPs) or fled to other countries. While most of the IDPs have found refuge in Ankawa, the Christian quarter of Erbil and two large refugee camps near the city of Dohuk, a small monastery in Sulaimaniya opened its doors for more than 200 refugees who have now been living in this very crowded place for more than half a year. A single Swiss monk takes care of them.

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Kurdish Women Help Liberate Village f...
Al Hassakah
By TTM Contributor 33
03 Mar 2015

Telbrak, Rojava, Syria

This video depicts the March 3 liberation of the village of Telbrak, a part of Hasakah province in northeastern Syria, 45km south of Qamishli, a strategic point in the war between ISIS and Kurdish forces. The latter included the Women's Protection Units, People's Protection Units, the al-Sanadeed forces, who are descendants of the tribes of Al-Shummar, and the al-Mondaweya tribe, which fights under the umbrella of the Kurdish forces. The international coalition also took part.

Telbrak and its rural areas had been under the control of al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate. According to the contributor of this video, Syrian regime forces declared they had in fact liberated the area and were occupying the village. However, the heavy presence of Kurdish forces and Kurdish delegations proves the contrary, according to the contributor.

Video description:

Shots of the destruction caused by fighting between Kurdish forces and ISIS; ISIS writings and mottos; shots of the city streets; shots of the Kurdish forces in the city, in addition to Kurdish military vehicles and flags.

(02:03-03:42) An interview with Doctor Nasser Haj Mansour, the responsible of Kurdish forces affairs: (Man, Arabic)
This visit is for many reasons, one of the most important reasons is to visit the People's Protection Units and al-Sanadeed forces, to encourage them after their successful operation in Telhamis, and liberating Telbrak, and to check on people around here. And to deny what have been said about violations and killings in the area, the committee includes officials from the self-directory, most of them are in the level of ministers and committee officials, we are here and we did not see any violations, not in the villages nor in the center of Telbrak.
Interviewer: What is the total area that you have liberated?
I cannot determine a certain number of the size of the liberated area, but i can tell you that from the line of Telbrak, until Jazaa, and the Iraqi-Iranian borders is free of ISIS members. Now the battles are in the south of Telbrak and Telhamis going towards the southern rural side of this area.

(03:42-04:51) Interview with Akram Mahshoush, leader of Kurdish delegation: (Man, Arabic) The operation taken by the People's Protection Units YPG, Women's Protection Units (YPJ) , and al-Sanadeed forces to clean the area of Tebrak located between al-Hasakah and Qamishli from ISIS members who killed people and destroyed areas, confiscated people's farms, and forced them to pay Zaka.
We came to see what happened, and to say to the people who are claiming that People's Protection Units have come to invade the area, we tell them, we did not come to invade the area. People's Protection Units worked on liberating the area because it is a part of Syria and we are all Syrians, and what we want is for life to return to this area.

(05:28-05:57) Interview with Hussein al-Khattab, an Arab member of Kurdish forces: (Man, Arabic)
We came here to retrieve Telhamis, we went through many villages and reached Telbrak, we liberated the areas and thank God none of our men died.

(08:05-09:03) Interview with a female Kurdish field leader, Narkaz Botan, (Woman, Kurdish)
“We began the liberation operation of Telhamis and Telbrak, and we liberated the two towns and many villages and compounds. We have strong willpower, and our fighters were persistent in finishing off ISIS and kicking them out of the area. So the people of our area – Arabs, Kurds, Syriacs and Assyrians – can live peacefully. Our raid was huge and successful. We killed many ISIS members and the area in general has come under our control. The raid will continue until we clean the entire Jazira area of them."

(09:0-10:15) Interview with a Kurdish female fighter, Jinda Kamishlo: (Woman, Kurdish)
“We are very happy to have liberated Telbrak and Telhamis from the cruelty of ISIS, who were raping and lashing women. The liberation process was successful. We are now in March; Women's Day is approaching and this holiday, the women of the two towns will be free, safe and away from ISIS. We will celebrate Women's Day in Telbrak, the single biggest blow against ISIS ideology, which considers women to be objects that are bought and sold. People in this area and in Kurdistan and Rojava are happy with this victory. And we ask God to give us more power to be able to eliminate ISIS from Rojava and Syria. We are happy, and I do not know how to describe it. Victory is ours and is dedicated to our people, and our great leader Ocalan, who is considered the leader of the revolution of Kurdish women and led us to this level, thanks to his ideology and instructions.”

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Iraqi Assyrians Denounce ISIS Transgr...
Erbil
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
23 Feb 2015

Opinions of Assyrians in Erbil, Iraq about the abduction of 150 Assyrians in Syria and the destruction of historical artifacts in Mosul.

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Refugee Syrian Christian Family Hope ...
Fanar,Lebanon
By Rachel K
05 Feb 2015

Fanar, Lebanon

February 5, 2015

After fleeing ISIS in northeastern Syria, a Syrian christian family has found refuge in a predominantly christian town in Lebanon. Despite feeling welcome in the town they have settled in, poverty and hopelessness remain. As a return to Syria seems impossible, Sonia, her mother Doros, and her pregnant sister-in-law Rita hope to emigrate to Australia with help of the United Nations.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman), Sonia Ishaya, Syrian Christian Refugee in Lebanon
00:00 – 03:15
We arrived here in September – September 1 – we have relatives here who come from Hassaka. My cousin and my niece rented this house for us. The United Nations have helped us. My father, mother and I were given a Visa card from the United Nations [we also receive aid from] churches. The UN gave a visa a card for the three of us only.
My brother works. Life is expensive. We can barely cover the rent. Only my brother works. I am handicapped, and my father and mother are old. My nephews are very young.
I had a psychological illness due to fear. I saw a psychiatrist and received treatment and medication in order to be able to talk and move around. Fear controlled to a large extent. Bombing hit our neighbourhood. The day ISIS went in, we left the area.
There was fear of everything. There nothing specific that I could relate my fear to. I was scared of everything. I was not scared of ISIS, I was terrorised.
The situation is difficult. I cannot handle the sight of blood or the sound of bullets. I have a complex of that.
If the situation remained as is, you will not find any more Christians. You will not find Christians in this region, especially if ISIS took control in this area. About three quarters of the [Christians] in Hassaka have left.
Here the situation is normal. We go to church and we can pray, however, one is called a refugee. One feels that he is not in his country.
We had a comfortable life and were happy in our country. We had jobs. What can I say?
Interviewer: Have you lost hope?
- Honestly, yes.

I always pray and ask God to give restore peace to Syria and all countries, and that children live happily again and families reunite. I wish that God does not deprive anyone of their country or family. Recently, my father was sick but we could not take him to the hospital because we cannot afford it. He was dying between our hands but we could not take him to the hospital. We could not even get the doctor.
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman), Doros Khoshaba, Syrian Christian Refugee in Lebanon
03:16 – 05:40
“We had a house that we left. My daughter’s cousins and my granddaughter each gave us something for the house. But there is not any aid or money. We do not have anyone to help us. Thank God for your and our safety. I fled and I did not want to take anything with me. We were able to take these children. Artillery shells were falling on our house. We stayed for a week hiding in the bathroom. Shells were falling from every direction. I will not return. My son will not return either because all of the things that we have seen. I do not care about our house or belongings. There was not any water or bread and we were not able to leave the house.
If I can work and receive aid from churches I will not return. This is our country. We have seen Christians and churches. The situation here is different. Back there, my daughter was threatened twice. Two fighters killed a man in front of my house and dragged him. I was coming out and I saw him being shot in the head.
I want to go to Australia. We have applied to UN. If we are accepted we will go. If not, we will stay here. I would rather work at people’s homes than return. I am an old woman, but I am willing to work instead of returning. My eyes have seen so much.
Due to our fear, we forgot our prayers and ourselves. We saw terrorists… we were not able to know anything. We forgot everything, as if we were hit on the head.
May the Virgin Mary protect us and everyone else, not only us – all the people who fled Syria and came here. Virgin Mary, protect us and give us our daily bread and mercy. That is all I can say.
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman), Rita Garabetian, Syrian Christian Refugee in Lebanon 05:41 –
The situation than it used to be in Syria. We are not scared like we used to be in Syria. However, we feel forlorn. People have received so well and no one has harmed us, but we feel like strangers. What bothers me the most is that my children do not go to school. I see other children going to school while my children stay at home. My husband is working, but we can barely cover our expenses, but we thank God.
Since I cannot enrol my children at school, the thing I can think of is traveling. This is our only ambition. Most people have come here to travel.
I am pregnant and I will give birth next month. I worry about the hospital bill, the cost of medications. I have a hundred things to worry about.
Honestly, we have not lived with the Lebanese before. In this area, Sid al-Boushriya, all the people are Assyrians from Hasaka. We have lived with any Lebanese. Yesterday, Lebanese people visited us. They were very decent and kind.
I do not think there any who live in tents. I am talking about the Christians of Hasaka. They are used to a different way of living. It is impossible for them to live in tents.
Hope of what?
Interviewer: To return.
To Syria, it is impossible. It is impossible to have peace in Syria before 10 or 15 years. There has not been an Arab country that was destroyed and then restored.
Christians remained in Lebanon because they were among each other. In Syria, ISIS meddled in the middle.
We saw what ISIS has done in Mossul, Iraq. What they did to the Christians and Yezidis. How many Christians are there in Hasaka? Their numbers are quite high, but ISIS could kill of them in a matter of a few days. There were about 20 Assyrian villages in which nobody remained. In each village, maybe one or two families remained. These villages were full; they had about 150 or 200 Christian families each. Now they are gone. They were all displaced. They went to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. They were displaced. They left their belongings, d houses and land. They had very good financial situation. They left everything and went away, out fear that their children would be killed. ISIS has no religion.
We were scared that what happened to them would happen to us.
-Who is ‘them’? - The Christians in Mossul. It was a disaster.

My cross… I do not walk without it. It protects me, even though it is small.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Boy), Unnamed, Rita Garabetian’s Son

08:46 -
I want to go to school. I want to stay here because I have friends, with whom I play. I have do not have anyone in Syria.

Interviewer: Why?

Because they were displaced and came here.

Interviewer: What is your dream?
I want to grow up and stay in Australia, and that the people of my country live in peace. Whenever I can, I would return to Syria.

Schools in Syria closed and there was war. I was scared of bombings and gunshots. I was scared of ISIS. ISIS displaced us.

Interviewer: Did you see or hear them?

  • I used to hear and see them. Interviewer: What did you see?
  • I saw shells falling. I also heard continuous gunshots. Bombs would fall and make a sound, boom! I wish that Jesus Christ protects Syria and its people, as well as all the countries; to protect every Christian and anyone else; and to protect all people in refugee camps.
    Lebanon is very beautiful.
    Interviewer: More beautiful than Syria?
  • No Syria is more beautiful.
  • Interviewer: Why?
  • I was living happily in Syria. I am happy in Lebanon because I saw my friends. I love to go to school.

-Interviewer: Why? - I want to learn and play with my friends. -Interviewer: What do you want to do when you grow up? -I want to be a doctor.

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Iraqi Christians Escape ISIS and Find...
Sed al Bauchriye, Lebanon
By Rachel K
04 Feb 2015

Six months ago, the threats of the Islamic State started to affect Iraqi Christians, causing hundreds of them fled their homes and sought refuge either within the country or in other countries. Some of these families found refuge in Lebanon.

Sed el Baouchriye is an area in the northern suburbs of Beirut that is home to large Chaldean, Assyrian and Syriac lebanese communities. This is where the Iraqi refugees settled.

This video is about the situation of Iraqi Christians in Lebanon six months after they fled their country. It explores how they live and who takes care of them. The video also includes an interview with Father Sarkoun Zoumaya, the archdiocese of St. Georges Assyrian Church in Sed el Baouchriye, explaining the current situation of the Iraqi refugees in Lebanon.

1 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Iraqi Refugee, Khanem Shaker Kina

(00:00) My children are staying without education. They have done more than enough to us in Lebanon, but life is difficult. Rent is expensive; we have no one to help us. We will not go back to Iraq. we were not happy there, so we will return (00:35) UNINTELLIGIBLE UNTIL 00:53.

2 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Iraqi Refugee, Imad

(00:54) We were displaced from our home country Iraq and we went to Turkey, but we found difficulties in living. My family is Christian and we did not pray or practice our beliefs. So we decided to come to Lebanon, and we thank the Lebanese government for receiving us and we are very happy now, at least we can pray. On Sunday we go to the mass and, we meet our Iraqi friends. Everybody is happy. We miss Iraq, of course. It is our country… our Assyrian heritage and culture, our Iraqi Christianity… We do not devote time to send a message to the Western countries, but if they can help in any way, help us move to another country, we cannot live anymore in Iraq. Iraq is dangerous now. There is no discrimination, my family and are very happy in Lebanon. I see my friends, we drink coffee all together. I met some new people too, some of them are Lebanese and they treat us very well. We are very happy in Lebanon (02:45).

3 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Iraqi Refugee

(00:46) I need to travel to Europe. I need to apply for a visa. We are not very happy here. I have some Iraqi friends in Sed al Baouchriye but I do not work at the moment, I want to work but I cannot find a job. Hope? Yes, everything is fine. I am happy in Lebanon but my situation is not very good, my health situation. There is no hope in going back to Iraq. There is no life in Iraq with the robbery, killing, bombing and ISIS.. (03:38).

4 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Priest, Sarkoun Zoumaya

(03:39) The majority of the people are not working. Lebanon has taken in too much workers and too much people, and cannot find jobs for the new comers. Lebanon provides a temporary refuge, for a year or two. They [Iraqi Refugees] have submitted their papers for foreign countries either through the United Nations or through a sponsor such as a brother, sister or father in Australia, United States or Canada, they are waiting to leave. Every day, one, two families or five families leave. The adaptation is becoming difficult now, especially when a stranger comes here, he needs more time to adapt with the situations here. The West is not trying to protect the Christians while in their homeland, so there is some unclear concerning this migration issue: Do they want a Middle East without Christians, while our heritage is 2,000 or 3,000 years old? We have more than 120 children that we are helping in their education in the school, and if we do not get aid, the school will close in one moth or two. We cannot carry all of this burden alone. We are helping 120 children in our church by giving them clothes. We are also helping them by paying their school fees, but if we do not receive any aid from the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Social Affairs or the NGOs… They are specialised in humanitarian care. They should show mercy towards these refugees so that they can live like other human beings (05:57).

5 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Iraqi Refugee, Julius

(05:57) No one helped me. I brought money [from Iraq] but now I do not have much. No one hired me, they say I am old. My son is handicapped. I used to go to the church, they used to help me there. Caritas helped me only once ever since I came from Iraq. I want the United Nations to help me… to help me get out of Lebanon (06:41).

Various of Iraqi refugee father teaching prayers to two young girls

Various of men praying at church

Various of house interior

Various of Iraq woman working at home

M/S of house from outside

Various of streets

Various of Iraqi families at home

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Libyan Catholic Bishop on Christians ...
Benghazi
By Mohammad Salama
22 Jan 2015

.January 22, 2015

Benghazi, Libya

The Bishop of Benghazi, Celeste Almagro, may be the last remaining Christian in his congregation left in Benghazi. Father Almagro says he is staying in Libya even though all the other nuns and other priests have left the country. There was a sizable quantity of Christian immigrants living in Libya, around 17,000 were Filipinos, and they lived along side the locals without any trouble. This all changed with the uprising against Muammar Gadaffi in 2011. Since the fall of Gadaffi’s government, the country has spiraled out of control, with radical Islamist groups growing in strength and making the country more dangerous for all religious minorities. Our contributor interviewed the bishop who was at the time sheltering in an unknown location for his own safety.

Transcription:

“I am bishop Celeste Almagro from Malta and I have been in Libya already for 27 years. It is a long time since I came as a priest in Tripoli. At that time, there were many Filipinos, there were about 17,000 so I came as an English speaking priest in order to help with the prayers of the church, these people who are Christian. And as I said I spent as parish priest and vicar of the bishop 9 years in Tripoli. We were going practically everywhere except Brega on the east and Ra’s lanuf in the east in order to conduct the prayers according to our way. Then in 1997, when the country, when Libya established diplomatic relations with the Vatican, I was appointed Bishop of Benghazi of this area, because the area is very vast, beginning from Brega it goes up to Tubruq, so it could not be administrated by Tripoli, it was already too far.

“So I came here in 1997, 17 years ago almost, and we took the permits necessary, we renovated the church; we painted, made it more welcoming because it needed a good refurbishing. Also the Catholic community was very numerous up until a few years ago. We had a lot to do. We were always going somewhere. There were also the sisters perhaps you know that there were sisters in the hospital of Jamahiriya, there were Polish sisters here in the children’s hospital, there were sisters in Tubruq, sisters in Derna, in Al Bayda and also in Al Marj. So we had a lot of travelling and coming and going back at the same time. In Al Bayda and Derna and Tubruq we had a priest resident with the “sorellas” (sisters) they call them. So we were organizing this way very much in demand, travelling and travelling without stop. We used to go to Brega by the company plane to the region. Now we have come to this state when the sorellas (sisters) are no more because many of them were over aged, but others were recalled because they were afraid by their superiors, so we have remained one priest with me and another one in Al Bayda.

“And here we are after this waiting for priests to return, because even in the normal life of the people, there are time for prayer, their regular attendance has been distributed so they need also the spiritual support of their religion which is Christian for us. And it is our daily and constant prayer and wish for peace to return. Now we do not have more bombings like before, hope has increased. Inshallah it will be not long before calm and security will be the order of the day and we will be able to return to our church in Benghazi because we had to leave very urgently on 4th November, taking nothing with us because there was no time, I did not know what was happening, maybe the soldiers were approaching. So took what we had about us, the necessary things and off we went with the hope of returning within three days. And we are still here, now it is 22nd of January and we are still here in this place out of normal residence which is a handicap also for those people because the people all come from different hospitals for the prayer in Servia Moreno and Omerta Gatap and we are not there. So it is a painful for them and for us, that is why in our prayer meetings, the priority is our prayer for peace, for the benefit of the country, for the benefit of the citizens, of the families and for the benefits also for us because we are living like a family in our own way.

“We have remained here because we had a great pressure from our families to return because they were worried about us, our families especially, and also from our embassy but we preferred to remain with the people and also with those when we had the nuns, they did not go immediately but remained as long as they could to be with the people with the war three years ago. Three years ago when there was the war, there were massive repatriation plans, there was a ship one time took 1,400 Filipinas, others went by air to their country, but we remained here to be with the people, with your people, with the sisters helping them as nurses and giving witness to our love and our dedication to the country also, which was our country because we are living here. And this again happened now and we remained again, we did not fly away, many have been repatriated, because the families were terrified because of the war, and it is reasonable, so many Filipinos and Africans also, because we have many Africans, left but also there are some who remained also for the benefit of the country to help in the hospitals because it is important that they should stay. Hoping as we do to rejoice when finally everything will be settled as I said for the benefit of the country, for the benefit of the families, for the benefits of us all.” (08:56)

(08:57) “I remember when the sisters were told by their superiors that they had to return, they wept because some of them were over 45 years here, they came when they were very young, especially the Italian ones so it was heart breaking for them to leave the hospital especially Jamahiriya here, children and the other hospitals in Al Bayda, Al Marj and Tubruq, because they felt their country is here for a lifetime. So as a conclusion, I would like to say how much we are also enduring with the people, the disadvantages brought by war, and it is our prayer for the country, for the people, among who we have so many friends also, especially the neighbours and those who know us, we are like a family, and inspire and pray and hope for peace so that will be our great relief from the tragedies of war because war is always a tragedy, and I hope it is not far, the night is dark but the sun will rise God willing. Thank you very much.”

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Syria's Christian Militia: "We want t...
Al Malikiya
By hoger
12 Jan 2015

Al-Malikiya, Syria
January 13, 2015

In the northeastern province of Hasaka, Syria, the Christian Assyrian community has formed its own police force. Members of Sutoro, which means “security” in the Assyrian language, said in interviews featured in this video that they protect their people. A Sutoro commander also invited all the Assyrians who left the area for their security to return.
The first Sutoro headquarters was officially set up in the town of Derik (also known as Al-Malikiya) in 2013, in cooperation with the Kurdish PYD party, which has set up an autonomous administration in large parts of Hasaka province and other predominantly Kurdish areas.

1- Various of Sutoro fighters

2- SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Jawad, Sutoro fighter
(00:18-00:32) "We came to defend our land, our people and our dignity. We are patrolling the streets and setting up checkpoints. All of this is to protect our people."

3- Close up of Sutoro fighter’s badge
4- Wide of Sutoro flag
5- Wide of Sutoro fighter behind gate
6- Medium of Sutoro vehicle
7- Various of Sutoro fighters in vehicle

8- SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Qassem, Sutoro fighter
(00:55-01:05) “The goals of the organization are to protect the people. Protect the civilians and their properties from the mercenaries and terrorists.”

  1. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man), Abdel Ahad Abdel Ahad, Sutoro field commander
    (01:06-02:28)

"We are a security organisation that belongs to our Christian people. We are called Sutoro [security in the Assyrian language]. We established this security headquarters to solve our people’s problem in this area and to defend our churches and our people’s properties. In case we get any complaint, we register it and try to solve it and in case we were not able to solve it, we take it to the People’s Court. We have come to protect to protect this country. We want to say a word to our citizens, especially Christians who left this area and went to other countries because of the situation. We tell them to come back; do not be afraid of anything. There is nothing to be afraid of."

  1. Wide of Sutoro vehicle patrolling a street
  2. Wide of Sutoro fighters at checkpoint
  3. Wide of Sutoro flag
  4. Wide of car going through a checkpoint manned by Sutoro fighters
  5. Various of Sutoro fighters in patrol vehicle
  6. Close up of Sutoro fighter’s badge
  7. Wide of Sutoro fighter at checkpoint
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Leaked Footage from ISIS Defector (Hi...
Deir-ez-Zur, Syria
By ttm contributor 31
06 Jan 2015

NOTE: The video clips in this collection were obtained by Transterra Media from a source who received it from a member of ISIS who defected from the group. According to the source the videos were recorded in the town of Zir and other locations in Syria between January and June, 2014.

Transterra Media cannot independently verify the accuracy of this content. The appearance of this video on the Transterra Media (TTM) website does not in any way constitute endorsement by TTM of any claims or statements made in the video.

00:00
This video shows part of a meeting between a Saudi ISIS leader known as sheikh Abu Abdulla Daigham and tribal leaders and residents from the village of Zir, Deir al-Zor province.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Sheikh Daigham, a Saudi ISIS leader
“You see, if every bandit was killed, by God, this will set an example for the people. ‘[In Raqqa] all punishments are applied, by God almighty’s grace.
“A drunken man would be flogged, as well as an adulterer... and the sorcerer would be killed. All punishments are applied. “Thanks be to God, we have two courts of law; one is dedicated to resolving issues among the people. It includes four judges and deals with issues of inheritance, divorce and similar issues, as well as land ownership – it deals with matters among the people. “We have another court that arbitrates between the people and the [Islamic] State. Whoever has a complaint against the State could present it before this court.”

00:37
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Sheikh Daigham, a Saudi ISIS leader
“A civil state, in people from different affiliations could live together…. Christians, Jews, Druze… all people could coexist and be equal in the homeland. God forbid! This is the apogee of unbelief! This means that the entire country would be for everyone. No! The Prophet peace be upon said: He who changes his religion, kill him. “A Druze should say ‘I testify that there is no god but Allah and that Mohammad is the Allah’s messenger” and pray and fast, otherwise we kill him. “A Christian should either embrace Islam or pay the jizya [tax imposed on non-Muslims]. Otherwise, I would battle him.”

01:18
This is part of a video that features a group of ISIS fighters in an unnamed location believed to be on Euphrates river in Deir ez-Zur Province. The group is led by a young commander from the village of Zir in Deir ez-Zur province, known by the alias Abu Dujana.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Abu Dujana, ISIS military commander
“God is greatest! The crocodiles are here.” Unseen fighter: “Come! Come! Abu Dujana!
“This is the crocodile group. They shall break the Alawites’ shield in Hawiqa [where regime-held air base is located], their last bastion. They have nothing left. They are under siege. Our brothers have laid siege on them. We will help our Muslim brothers. We all are all brothers. All believers are brothers! God is greatest!”

02:02
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man), Sheikh Daigham, ISIS official
“I have seen young men in Syria, in Sham… I asked them, saying: what do you think of Christians, he they said: I do not know. “You do not know?! You do not know?! Christians say that Issa [Jesus] is the son of God.” 02:19
Various shots of ISIS fighters believed to be Saudi firing sniper shots
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, conversation between fighters)

  • Did you see him? Fire at him

  • No, I did not see him.

  • I am relieved

  • Are you sure?

  • I saw the flag.

  • The flag? How did you see the flag?

02:43
Part of a video that shows a group of fighters, most of whom say they are from Saudi Arabia, inviting others to go to Syria and join them in jihad. This video was stored on a memory card that belonged to a Saudi ISIS fighter in Syria known as Abu Saadiya. It was obtained by Transterra Media through a third party without the fighter’s consent.
The exact location and date where the video was shot are unknown.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Abu Thabet
“I call on all of my brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to join jihad come to Sham [Syria].”

Unseen man: “Tell them that jihad is a duty and not optional.”
Abu Thabet: “Jihad is a duty not optional.”
Unseen man: “…and that our brothers in Syria need us to come here... something like that”

Fighter wearing black bonnet: “Takbir” [Invitation to say “God is greatest”]

-God is greatest!

-Takbir!

-God is greatest!

-Jihad!

-Jihad!

-Pride!

-Pride!

-Power!

-Power!

03:13
This is part of a video that features ISIS fighters rigging a vehicle with large improvised explosive devices. The main speaker in the video is believed to be Abu Dujana, a young ISIS military commander from the village of Zir in Deir ez-Zur province, believed to be appointed by the group as an emir, or ruler, of his village.
This explosive-rigged vehicle is believed to have been used in June 2014 in a suicide attack against leaders of Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, two Islamist groups that are against ISIS. The speaker says that the vehicle will be used to avenge two commanders in Raqqa who were reportedly killed in January 2014.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Fighter believed to be Abu Dujana, an ISIS military commander
“Go slowly, brother. God is greatest! The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the Province of the Good [name given to Deir ez-Zur] is preparing the ‘Land Mig’ to attack [Ahrar?] al-Sham. They aggressors who killed our brothers. This ‘Land Mig’ will avenge [the death of] our brother Abu Baker al-Tounisi and Abu Rayyan al-Jazrawi, God willing. Your blood will not go to waste, with God almighty’s will.” “God is greatest!”

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Christmas for Refugees in Iraq
Dohuk
By rsoufi
22 Dec 2014

December 22, 2014
Dohuk, Iraq

Iraqi Christian refugees put up a huge Christmas tree outside of the Chaldean Cultural Centre in Dohuk. The tree is the biggest in the region and is made of astro-turf wrapped around a metal frame, materials supplied by Afram, an engineer and owner of the centre, which is now housing 87 Christian refugee families.

Inside the centre, Salma is putting up Christmas decorations. She and her husband fled Tel Isqof, in northern Iraq, to escape ISIS and now live with other refugees in Dohuk. Their sons both fled the country.

Farouk and George, a former employee at Basra airport and a former employee at the oil plant in Kirkuk, respectively, wish to leave Iraq for a more stable life.

Transcription:

Farouk, Christian refugee, (Man, Arabic):

(00:36-00:58) Farouk: "This is a Christmas tree for the Chaldean Cultural Centre. All the people here participated in the making of it."

Interviewer: How did you make it?

Farouk: "We cover it with a carpet and then we decorate it with Christmas lights and Christmas decorations."

(01:03-01:47) Farouk: "This is the work of Mr. Afram. He allowed us to reside here, we were 87 families."

Interviewer: Is this the only tree that you are making?

Farouk: "No, we have another tree inside and a grotto."

Interviewer: What do you hope for this Christmas?

Farouk: "We hope for peace, and to leave this country, because nobody is giving us our rights."

Interviewer: Why are you making this tree?

Farouk: "It is a holiday, we have to make it."

George, Christian refugee, (Man, Arabic):

(01:59-02:15) George: "Even if our situation is hard, it will become easier, nothing stays the same. Life is a chance, to see the good and to see the bad. and hopefully God will fix things, and make it better for us. We are refugees, and we hope our situation will improve."

(02:21-02:31) George: "We build the christmas tree every year. No matter what happens, we build it every year."

Interviewer: The fact that you are refugees did not affect you negatively?

George: "No, nothing can affect us."

(02:38-02:52) George: "We hope to return to Kirkuk, to work and continue to live our lives. We do not care about ISIS or anyone."

Salma, Christian refugee (Woman, Arabic):

(04:02-04:16) Salma: "I am decorating the tree. The Christmas tree."

Interviewer: Why are you decorating it?

Salma: "Because it is a religious holiday that we celebrate every year and decorate the tree."

(04:24-05:22) Salma: "I remember when we used to be in our village, and celebrate this holiday with the family, friends, and relatives."

Interviewer: What did you used to do at Christmas time back when you were in your village?

Salma: "We used to celebrate, prepare food and sweets for the holiday when all the family gathers."

Interviewer: What is your current situation here?

Salma: "We are living in a tragedy. It is not nice to live here for any of the people in this building. But thanks to Mr. Afram, who allowed us to stay here, we are so much better than others."

(05:27-05:42) Salma: "If they cannot find a solution they should allow mass immigration. I am here alone with my husband. All of my children are out of the country, Why should my husband and I stay here?"

(05:47-06:37) Salma: Are we Christian or citizens of this country? We ask God to fix this situation."

Interviewer: Is it necessary to build the tree?

Salma: "Yes absolutely, the tree should be placed and decorated at the beginning of December, to start preparing for the holiday. This tree is a blessing from God, maybe it will bless us so the situation can be fixed and we can return to our homes. Many people do not want to immigrate. This is our country and it is very important to us, when we think of what happened to our country we feel sad, but what can we do?"

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Iraqi Christians Start from Scratch i...
Lyon
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

“Why does nobody care about Iraqi Christians?"
 
“We lost everything in Iraq: our house and everything that was inside it, everything!” laments the Iraqi priest, Muhannad Altawil, who now lives in France. He is driving to meet Sliwa and Siba and their three children, who have just taken refuge in their brother’s house in a suburb on the outskirts of Lyon. He remembers the day in 2008 when his family was told to leave their homes and everything in them behind. “This house belongs to us now,” their perpetrators said. Without taking his eyes off the road for a moment, Altawil says that is why his entire family fled. The rosary beads dangling from the rear-view mirror dance as he turns the bend.
 
Faced with the brutality and indifference that Christians in Iraq were suffering, Father Altawil tells us, the dioceses of Lyon and Mosul decided to partner up in 2014. A charity dinner in honor of the refugees was held just before Christmas in Lyon. On 8 December 8, to commemorate the traditional Festival of Lights of Lyon, thousands of lamps and candles were sent to Baghdad and Erbil where dozens of people celebrated a procession that included the Cardinal of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin. The latter then celebrated mass at the Church of Saint Joseph in the Erbil neighborhood of Ankawa.
 
Altawil is a Chaldean Christian priest from Baghdad. He explains that after completing his military service in 1999, he traveled to France “to learn French and to realize my religious calling.” After a year in Rennes, in the west of France, he decided to become a priest. Since 2000, he has been a Dominican monk and since 2008, a priest. Nonetheless, he returns to Iraq every year to visit the Dominican community. He says he also returned last year, this time returning to his old neighborhood. “I could not go directly to the main door of my house because it was quite dangerous; because everyone knows everyone, and they know I'm a Christian and now – and a priest,” he explains. He tried to access his house from the back. “Then I saw the family that is now living in my house and using everything: our car, even wearing our clothes.”
 
Father Muhannad stops his car in a parking lot in front of an array of concrete buildings, an urban landscape that is vastly different to the picturesque houses that line downtown Lyon along the Saone River.
 
Were it not for the Christmas lights adorning several balconies, the night would subsume everything. We are now is Vaulx-en-Velin, the neighborhood where France’ first banlieusard riots began in 1979. Most of the residents are immigrants or children of immigrants, though some are already the grandchildren of those who came to France two generations ago.
 
The entire family lives in the living room of a single house: the husband and wife, their two children (the eldest is currently on duty as a taxi-driver) and their new guests: Sliwa and Siba, the parents, and their three children, Lord, 7, Fadi, 6, and Malik, 3. It does not take a lot of imagination to guess their spiritual leanings: every corner of the room is overflowing with religious symbols of one sort or another. On one wall is a large manger with a ceramic angel that will not stop dangling from a cork roof, though the aunt insists on propping it up. Next to it is a tree with bows and white balls and, in a corner next to the main table, a golden Virgin Mary. They have prepared sweet Iraqi tea. Mr. Sliwa explains that in Iraq, “it was impossible to find a Christmas tree anywhere in the street. It's beautiful here how malls and everything else is decorated.”
 
The youngest daughter, Malik, has huge eyes and only leaves her mother's arms to take another piece of cake, for which her mother tells her off discreetly. The little girl seems oblivious to the adults’ conversation, even though her parents lower their voice and look at her askance when discussing just how the children are bearing the changes: a different house, a different country, different food, a new life amongst uncles and cousins. In Arabic, her name means “angel.”
 
They arrived in Lyon from Erbil just before Christmas. The father Mr. Sliwa reiterates that they have been very busy adapting to everything new. Nonetheless, it makes him “very angry” that nobody seems to care about their situation. “Why doesn’t anybody care about Iraqi Christians?" he demands indignantly. Our conversation took place a day after the December 2014 kidnapping of 40 hostages in a Sydney café in which three people died. “Look at the newspapers and television, how many people have died in Iraq and how many in Australia? And who ever speaks up on our behalf?” he exclaims.
 
One of various minorities scattered throughout the country, the Christian community in Iraq is one of the oldest in the world. In 2003, before the US invasion, there were more than a million Christians in Iraq, representing about 5% of the population. Today it is estimated there are less than half a million.
 
Muhannad Altawil says, “the problem is that, after the US invasion, all the terrorists came to us to seek revenge against the American army in Iraq.” Moreover, he insists, “Islamic terrorists think that all Europeans and Americans are the same.” The proclamation of the so-called ISIS in June 2014 triggered a new flight out of the country. The Lyon-Mosul organization of the Catholic Church in Lyon estimates that 400,000 Iraqi members of minorities took refugee in the Kurdish province of Iraq, including some 150,000 Christians.
 
In September, French President François Hollande traveled to Baghdad to support the new Iraqi government. There he said: “I want relations between France and Iraq to acquire a new dimension.” Visiting refugees in Erbil, he said, “Our duty is for you to be able to return to your homes.”
 
“The hardest part,” says Mr. Sliwa, “is starting from zero, finding a job without speaking the language.” Not to mention all the paperwork necessary for making administrative arrangements to get residency, Father Altawil adds. Whatever their struggles, Mrs Siba says pensively, “we are lucky.”
 

SPANISH VERSION AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Iraqi refugees France 01
Lyon, France
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

Escaping ISIS, a Christian family from Iraq begins a new life in France.

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Iraqi refugees France 02
Lyon, France
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

Escaping ISIS, a Christian family from Iraq begins a new life in France.

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Iraqi refugees France 03
Lyon, France
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

Escaping ISIS, a Christian family from Iraq begins a new life in France.

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Iraqi refugees France 04
Lyon, France
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

Escaping ISIS, a Christian family from Iraq begins a new life in France.

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Christians Farming on ISIS Frontline
al-Qosh, Iraq
By rsoufi
09 Dec 2014

December 9, 2014
Al-Qosh, Iraq

Last season Amir and Adib Gerges, sibling farmers, were unable to sell their harvest because of an ISIS attack on their homes, in the town of al-Qosh in the largely Christian Nineveh Valley, forced them to flee. Since then, their town has been retaken by the Kurdish Peshmerga and the brothers have returned to work on their farms, despite the fact that ISIS controls territory less than 10km away. The brothers are some of the very few farmers who were brave enough to return to their land. Other farmers either ran away from the conflict or are too scared to return because of the ongoing threat of fighting and land mines laid by retreating ISIS fighters. The brothers heard about the 13-year-old son of a farmer who died after stepping on a mine, in the neighboring town of Tel Isqof. Amir and Adib say that, although their safety is not guaranteed, they have no choice but to stay and work on their ancestral land.

Transcription:

Adib Gerges, Farmer (Man, Arabic)
(00:18-00:27) Interviewer: How much wheat did you plant today?
Adib: “Approximately 40-50 Dunam.”
Interviewer: How many Dunams left to plant?
Adib: “About 20-30 Dunams.”

Amir Gerges, Farmer, (Man, Arabic)
(01:08-01:17) Interviewer: Aren't you afraid?
Amir: “We are counting on God. We are not doing anything wrong.”
(01:22-01:42) Interviewer: You are in an unsafe area, in Nineveh valley. What guarantees do you have that it is safe to keep working on your land? Do you have hope?
Adib: “We are counting on God and God will help us, we hope for things to be resolved.”

(03:24-03:28) Interviewer: What is this?
Adib Gerges: “Seeds for wheat .”

Worker, (Man, Arabic)
(03:38-03:46) Interviewer: Are you not afraid to work here?
Worker: “No why would I be afraid? God is with us and he will help us, why would we be afraid?

(03:57-04:44) Interviewer: How do you feel when ISIS is so close to you?
Adib: “The Peshmerga are here, and we wish for better things to come.”
Interviewer: How much did you harvest?
Adib: “Out of 100 Dunams, we harvested 30.”
Interviewer: What did you do with it?
Adib: “We did not take it to the market yet.”
Interviewer: Why?
Adib: “We did not have time when the conflict happened. We left the area and did not have time to take the wheat to market so it stayed packed in the houses.”

(04:56-05:37) Interviewer: When did you start farming?
Adib: “It is a very old profession, our fathers and grand-fathers worked in cultivation and we are continuing on the same path.”
Interviewer: Do you intended to leave your land?
Adib: “No, our land is very precious, we cannot leave it.”
Interviewer: “Many Christians left their land and went to Europe and many other places.”
Adib: “What can I tell you? Each person does what he pleases.”
Interviewer: What do you think?
Adib: “We hope for the best and that we never have to leave our land.”

(05:57-07:14) Interviewer: Many Christians left the area, but you stayed to guard your land. Why?
Amir: “Yes, the land is very precious, we cannot leave or land. Our country is also precious. This situation will definitely come to an end and the problems will be solved. We work, benefit, and raise our children well. We give them good education and live well. That is what we should do. War and fighting helps nobody.”

(07:32-07:49) Amir: “A person does not abandon his land, his home, and his country. Wherever this person goes, he will find himself a stranger. We cannot leave our land. It is too valuable to us.”

(08:00-08:40) Amir: “The Pershmerga forces are controlling the area. One farmer stepped on a ground-mine, it exploded and he died. He was 13 years old, and had three siblings. It happened about 10-15 days ago.”
Interviewer: Who planted those mines?
Amir Gerges: “Nobody except ISIS.”

(08:50-09:14) Amir: “We have no manure so we bought some from the black market. Concerning gas, we received help from Kurdistan.”

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Christian Roots: Turkey's Dwindling C...
Izmir
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

Izmir, Turkey

The largest community of the smallest Christian minority in Turkey has felt neglected for decades and is now facing an uncertain future. The recent visit of Pope Francis to Turkey reinforced anxieties within Izmir's catholic community as he was the first Pope not to visit the tiny but important diocese. Although he had announced his wish to visit the House of Mary in Ephesus, like his predecessors, security problems at the remote shrine made it impossible. Catholics in Izmir are well aware of security problems, but nonetheless they bitterly feel that they are the collateral victims of sectarian tensions in the region.

The history of Christianity in Turkey is almost as old as the Church itself. St. Paul was a native of Anatolia and preached in Ephesus and Miletus. Jesus’ favorite apostle, St. John, the Evangelist who wrote the Apocalypse, is said to have moved to Ephesus with the Virgin Mary. The Apostle’s tomb is near the Ephesus archaeological site and an enormous basilica was built on it. It is ironic that the most vocal opponents of Turkey’s accession to European Union used the “Christian roots” of Europe as an argument against it; the roots of christianity are all in Turkey. It was in Ephesus that the Third Ecumenical Council, the famous “Theotokos Council”, confirmed the Nicene Creed on which the Roman Catholic doctrine is still based, and which declared the Virgin Mary “Mother of God”. Despite this rich history, it is ironic that such Christian roots are usually overlooked in Turkey.

It is commonly said that Turks are 99% Sunni Muslim, and it is true that Turkey’s religious policy take it as a fact. While Orthodox, Armenian and Chaldean Christians are recognized as indigenous religious minorities, the Latin Catholic Christians are not. There are about 35,000 Catholics in Turkey. Most of them are so-called “Levantines”, or descendants of French or Italian expatriates who settled in Ottoman Empire. Izmir, the ancient Smyrna, was their most important city, and it was the most cosmopolitan city in Turkey.

Izmir’s most popular Catholic Church is the Dominican Church of the Holy Rosary, in the traditionally Levantine district of Alsancak. Every Thursday Father Stefano Negro, the parish priest, holds mass for a meager audience of elders.

“It was very different, when the Church was built in 1904,” tells the Dominican friar, a keen historian of his adopted city. “The Church was crowded and rich, because the parishioners considered it a symbol of their identity.

The Great Fire of Smyrna, in 1922, changed everything, along with the birth of the Turkish Republic. However, the turning point was in 1934, when foreigners were not allowed to work anymore in Turkey.” The skilled workers and entrepreneurs who had helped to make Izmir the economic capital of the Ottoman Empire emigrated, and the Catholic flock of Izmir began to dwindle.

The remaining Levantines are descendants of Italian or French families, and all of them feel uncomfortable in the “New Turkey” of President Erdogan. In the traditionally secular republic there was room for many minorities, but the Islamist rhetoric of the current ruling party is underscoring more and more the Sunni Muslim character of the Turkish State.

“This is not my church,” a lady in her 60's whispers before Father Stefano’s mass. “I was born in Karsiyaka, and I went to St. Helen’s Church. It was always open, and on St. Helen’s Day we could bring our cross in procession in the streets and everybody in the neighborhood celebrated with us. Now it’s impossible [and] we keep a low profile, should we irk religious zealots that are increasingly sensitive...”

Another lady, also in her 60s, comments bitterly that “Turkey is going back in time”. However, the others disagree staunchly. “It’s not true, it was never like this! This is something new, especially in Izmir, and it’s not, like some say, because of immigration from the East”.”Truth is,” the first woman comments “that Turks are angry at Europe. They are angry because they feel rejected. They see Islamophobia rising in the same Europe that keeps closing its doors as a Christian club. So they [Turks[] turn to their religious identity and don’t like us anymore.” The lady, who asks not to be mentioned by name, was born in Izmir, in the elegant Karsiyaka district. When she got married she move to Italy, where she lives with her children and grandchildren. Despite this, she keeps coming to her “hometown”, as she calls it, for several months a year. “But every time it’s more difficult” she laments.

Father Stefano, who came to Turkey in 1976, mostly agrees with the lady. When the military junta ruling the country after the 1980 coup started a fiercely nationalistic policy, the Catholic clergy was seriously worried they would be expelled. To be able to stay, Father Stefano managed to acquire the Turkish citizenship. “But I often have problems," he explains. "Now, every time the police check my ID, they argue about my religion indicated on it. ‘If you are really a Turk, how come that you are not a Sunni Muslim?’”

Things have worsened under Erdogan, with his religious and nationalist rhetoric centered on the Sunni identity of the country. Father Stefano, a witty friar with a sharp humor, turns sad when he talks about the size of his flock. “I can see them dwindle from the number of funerals I celebrate. It’s clear in the mass, where worshipers are all with white hair. There are weddings, sure, but most of them are mixed ones, and children have to be educated in public schools, where religion classes are mandatory, and of course we talk of Sunni religion [in the religious classes].” There are some newcomers to the church, most of whom are Catholic families of NATO military base personnel or technicians working in Izmir.

If the mass is attended by white haired, depressed worshipers, the atmosphere is completely different at the Italian school of Alsancak. Alsancak is an international elementary school and Turkish private kindergarten, managed by Italian nuns and secular teachers, both Italian and Turkish. Sister Roberta also has grey hair, well visible since religious dress is banned in schools, but she has the energy and high spirit of an elite soldier. “We don’t care of habits, we don’t need habits. We are the habits, we are nuns, even when we don’t dress as such” she proudly declares.

The kindergarten children are a merry mixed bunch, from Turkish, Italian, Spanish or American families. They are taught Italian language, but the education is strictly secular. However, Turkish citizens, even those with dual citizenship, cannot attend the elementary school. Only foreign children can continue their education in the nuns’ school and many families resent this. Sister Roberta shows a gift from a local tycoon, a container shipping business magnate, who says to own his success to the education he got at the Catholic nuns’ school.

Sister Roberta cameto Turkey in 1976, like Father Stefano, and she has seen hard times too. Despite various hardships she claims that nuns are highly respected for the education they give in the school, which in better times also hosted orphans and poor children. “We have always been here, since 1887, and we will stay.” After the 1922 fire, when all the foreign nationals had been evacuated on western warships, the youngest nun of the school volunteered to go back, soon followed by others, who kept the catholic presence in Izmir alive. However, Sister Roberta is bitterly disappointed that the Pope didn't come. “Of course we understand the security reasons, and God knows these are hard times. But it’s a bad omen, when it is too dangerous for the Catholic Pope to visit Izmir and the House of Mary in Ephesus.”

Many share her disappointment, and some are in disbelief. On the hill near Ephesus, where the House of Mary attracts pilgrims and tourists, a little crowd are waiting, in vain, for a surprise. “We hoped to see Pope Francis. He’s famous to change program at the last moment, maybe he will come here too. Why he didn't come? We don’t understand!” says the mother of a young boy who is busy lighting candles for the Virgin. They are from Izmir, but they are not Catholic: “We are Turks, we are Muslims and we are proud to be both.” she smiles “But of course we love Meryem Ana, Mother Mary!”

Maybe the dwindling Catholic community in Izmir and the cherished “Christian roots” of Europe could be the key to unlock both Turkey’s accession to Europe and the future of all its minorities.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 16 of 21
Efes Harabeleri, 35920 İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

Religious tourists among the ruins of the Saint Mary Church, in the archaeological site of Ephesus. This church was the place where the Third Ecumenical Council proclaimed the Virgin Mary “Mother of God”, in AD 431. The Virgin Mary is said to have moved to Ephesus with John the Evangelist, after her son’s crucifixion.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 17 of 21
Meryem Ana Yolu, İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

The “Meryem Ana Evi”, “House of Mother Mary”, on a hill near the ancient city of Ephesus. The place was visited by Pope Paul VI in 1967, by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and by Pope Benedict XVI, but security concerns forced Pope Francis to break the tradition, for the Izmir Catholics’ dismay.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 18 of 21
Meryem Ana Yolu, İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A silver statuette of the Virgin near the “Meryem Ana Evi”, the “House of Mother Mary”, with the prayer to the Virgin by Saint Francis of Assisi. Respected in all theIslamic world for being the mother of Prophet Isa (known as Jesus to Christians), “Mother Mary” is especially revered in Turkey, where motherhood is highly respected.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 19 of 21
Meryem Ana Yolu, İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A Turkish Muslim family lights candles outside of the “Meryem Ana Evi”, the “House of the Virgin Mary” in Ephesus. Like many others, they had come to the holy site hoping to see the Pope, despite the fact he had cancelled his trip to Izmir. Pope Francis is known to randomly change plans and this family was hoping for a surprise change of program.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 20 of 21
İsa Bey Mh., 2013. Sokak No:1, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A pilgrim prays on the tomb of the Apostle John, the Evangelist who wrote the Book of Revelation, also known as Apocalypse. The tomb was at the center of the enormous basilica dedicated to St. John. The Church of Ephesus was one of the “Seven Churches of Asia” mentioned in the Apocalypse. However, after the city was destroyed by an earthquake, it declined in favor of the Church of Izmir, the last survivor of the Seven.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 21 of 21
İsa Bey Mh., 2013. Sokak No:1, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
29 Nov 2014

A group of religious tourists observes an inscription in memory of the visit of Pope Paul VI, in 1967, among the ruins of St. John’s Basilica in Ephesus, about 100 km from Izmir. Though Izmir Catholics are well aware of security problems, especially with the current turmoil on Turkish borders, they show bitter disappointment for the cancellation of the Papal visit, feeling once more neglected by the rest of the Christian world.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 11 of 21
Donanmacı Mh., 1728. Sokak 55-67, 35480 İzmir/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

The Saint Helen Church lies in the Karsiyaka neighborhood of Izmir.

A Levantine lady, who moved to Italy, but spends several months every year in her father's house in Karsiyaka, remembers that when she was a kid, the cross was carried in a public procession in the neighborhood and it was celebrated and respected by everybody, regardless of their religion. "But today it would be impossible," she laments. "Turks are angry at Europe, because they feel rejected and betrayed. And we, as Levantine citizens of European countries, do not feel supported by our governments."

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 12 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

A flight of starlings over the St. John’s Cathedral in Izmir. The Church was built in 1863, thanks to a donation of 11,000 gold Turkish lira by then Sultan Abdulaziz. However, nowadays’s Turkish politicians have sent contradictory signals: while the government has promised that Christian students would have their own religion classes, a Minister claimed that “Christianity is no longer a religion, but a culture.”

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 13 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

Two Catholic women pray at the Virgin Mary altar in Izmir’s St. John’s Cathedral. The women have their head covered while in the Church, as per the Levantine tradition. Though the Cathedral is dedicated to the Apostle St. John the Evangelist, buried in nearby Ephesus, devotion for the Virgin Mary is very popular, even among Muslims.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 14 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

The words “God loved the World so much to give his only son so that none who believes in him would come to any harm” are inscribed, in Turkish, on the left side in the interior of the Izmir Cathedral.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 15 of 21
İsmet Kaptan Mh., Şehit Nevres Bulvarı No:23, 35110 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
28 Nov 2014

Dedication of a stained glass window in Izmir Cathedral, offered by a French parishioner. Izmir Catholic community is the largest in Turkey, and the Cathedral is the seat of the only archdiocese of Turkey, covering all the south western Anatolian provinces. The current Archbishop, Ruggero Franceschini, was previously Vicar in Antakya. His successor, Msgr. Luigi Padovese, was slain and beheaded by his Turkish driver, apparently a deranged man, who some said was a religious fanatic.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 01 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

The Holy Rosary Church in Alsancak was built in 1904 and was the only church that survived the Great Fire of 1922. After the fire, the church became a main communal center for Levantine Christians in Izmir.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 02 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Miss Caterina Ventura, the oldest member of Izmir's Catholic community, lights a candle at the Holy Lance altar, in the Church of Holy Rosary. Miss Ventura, born in 1921, was nine months old when her family fled to Italy, after the town was destroyed by the Great Fire at the end of Turkish War of Independence. Her family, of Italian and Greek ancestry, returned to Izmir after the new Turkish Republic was established.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 03 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Prayers for the deceased can be read in Italian, French and Turkish, the languages spoken by Catholic worshipers in Izmir. In the second half of 19th century, foreign entrepreneurs and skilled workers formed a community of western citizens who made Izmir the gate to Anatolia. The Aegean city soon became soon the economic capital of the Ottoman Empire and foreigners born there, calling themselves Levantines, were able to build churches and practice their religion.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 04 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

A small number of worshipers attend a mass at the Holy Rosary Chruch in Izmir. Father Stefano Negro, the parish priest and keen historian of Izmir, says that he mostly holds funerals at the church. The few weddings he celebrates are almost always mixed, involving a non-Christian bride or groom.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 07 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Father Stefano offers communion to worshipers at the Holy Rosay Church in Izmir. While most of the churchgoers are Levantines, others are foreigners who work at at the local NATO base. Father Stefano arrived to Izmir in 1976 during the worst political violence in Turkey, which lead to a military coup in 1980. He obtained Turkish citizenship after the coup to be able to stay in the country.

Today, he often argues with the police when he shows them his ID; Turkish identity cards report the religion and he is indicated as Catholic. Some policemen wonder how he could he be a Turkish citizen if he is not a Sunni Muslim.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 08 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

The relic of the Holy Lance, believed to date from the first century CE, is preserved at the Holy Rosary Church in Izmir. This spear is believed to have been used to stab Jesus Christ while on the cross. During the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922, over 5,000 people took refuge in this small church. When the friars returned, they found that the silver reliquary had been pillaged, but the priceless Lance was still there.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 09 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1464. Sokak No:20, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Sister Roberta, one of the nuns who teach at the Italian School in Izmir, receives flowers by alumni of her school who are paying her an unexpected visit. The Italian School is managed by the order of Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea. Students, however, mostly Muslim Turks, receive a strictly secular education.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 10 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1464. Sokak No:20, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
27 Nov 2014

Sister Roberta helps a student during a drawing class. Due to a law banning religious clothing in schools, the nuns cannot wear Christian outfits.

"œPeople recognize us as nuns in the streets, because even if we don'€™t dress as nuns, we behave as nuns!" Sister Roberta proudly says. She also says the nuns never received threats or faced problems; on the contrary, they are extremely respected for the way they do their job.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 05 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
26 Nov 2014

An old statuette of the Virgin Mary is placed at the Holy Rosary Church. The church was built in Izmir by the Dominican Friars in 1904, when the promulgation of the Rosary by Pope Leo XIII and the devotion to the Immaculate Conception were at widely embraced, after the sensation caused by the apparitions at Lourdes.

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Catholics in Izmir - Turkey - 06 of 21
Alsancak Mh., 1481. Sokak 3-13, 35100 Konak/İzmir,Turkey
By Piero Castellano
26 Nov 2014

A stained glass window at the Holy Rosary Church in Izmir depicts Pope Pius X, later Saint Pius X, elected in 1903, just one year before the church was built. The shadow of the grate protecting the window from vandalism can be seen in this photo. Society in Izmir is known for tolerance towards minorities, but in the past few years there have been increasing fears that Christians could be the target of attacks by extremists.

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Lebanese Christians Take up Arms Agai...
Bekaa
By Andreanewilliams
13 Nov 2014

Ras Baalbek, Lebanon
November 13, 2014

Christians living in the villages of Qaa and Ras Baalbek, near the Syrian border in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, have begun arming themselves against extremist groups from Syria. Volunteers are organizing village militias to protect their communities from Nusra Front and Islamic State militants whose plan is to extend their caliphate to the Mediterranean coast. Abu George and Michel, two militiamen from Qaa say that they received threats from Nusra Front after the Islamist group attacked and destroyed the Christian town of Maaloula, in Syria, in September 2013. Threats have multiplied after clashes erupted in the town of Arsal in August between the Lebanese Army and Islamist fighters who crossed the border from Syria. More than 20 Lebanese soldiers and policemen were captured in this incident, some of whom were executed.

  1. Various of hills
  2. Wide of church
  3. Wide of street
  4. Various of church
  5. Wide of Lebanese Army vehicle driving on dirt road
  6. Medium of Michel (Christian militiaman) driving
  7. Close-up of hands on steering wheel
  8. Travelling of hills
  9. Pan left of wooden crosses and Michel (Christian militiaman)

  10. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Michel, militiaman from Ras Baalbek town
    The municipality of Ras Baalbek has four men working as guards in the local police station. We stand guard at night and day, and when we encounter anything, we directly report it to the army, which takes action. There are six platoons from the [Lebanese Army] Airborne Regiment; there are soldiers from the Border Guard Regiment; and soldiers from the 8th Infantry Brigade are positioned on the border up there.

  11. Medium of cross

  12. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Michel, militiaman from Ras Baalbek town
    Soldiers from the 8th Infantry Brigade position sometimes go on patrols. These mountains are empty; there is nothing there. There is fear that an infiltration might occur. It is very cloudy and we cannot see anything, and someone might cross over from there.
    We only fear that someone might sneak during the night, or even during the winter when fog covers the town. This why we stay awake all night long guarding the town. Of course we collaborate with the Lebanese Army

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  14. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Michel, militiaman from Ras Baalbek town
    Soon, when winter comes, the weather becomes very snowy and cold. Some of them [fighters] will have to escape the cold and eventually come to our village; this is why we have to have stand guard during the night with help of the Lebanese Army.

  15. Medium of church bell

  16. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Michel, militiaman from Ras Baalbek town
    If any [fighter] comes from the hilltops, the Lebanese Army will warn us. It will not be easy [for fighters to infiltrate] since they need at least two hours to get to the town. We would then have to move our children, women and elderly, and to defend our homes, honor and homes.

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  19. Wide of grocery store

  20. Traveling of old man walking

  21. Wide of grocery store

  22. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Elias Mansour
    As Christians, we are not afraid. We will never leave our land and homes, we are very proud as Christians. Jesus Christ is always with us.

  23. Medium of church mural

  24. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Elias Mansour
    Every night, we have around 400 young men who assist the army and are always ready.

  25. Medium of Abu George driving

  26. Close up of rifle inside the car

  27. Medium of Abu George carrying rifle next to 4x4 vehicle

  28. Traveling of militiaman walking and holding rifle and binoculars

  29. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Abu George, 40 years old, and militiaman from Qaa, retired Lebanese soldier
    There have been several infiltration attempts, which have been dealt with.
    Not long ago -- about 15 days ago -- an infiltration attempt took place and it was dealt with. These attempts are taking place in small numbers. They [fighters] have probably come to see whether there is someone who is vigilant or not, and they saw what they should see.

  30. Tilt down of rifle held by Abu George

  31. Wide of militiaman aiming sniper rifle

  32. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Abu George, 40 years old, and militiaman from Qaa, retired Lebanese soldier
    Of course, they will not spare us. These people, despite the fact that they speak in the name of religion, are faithless and do not have no mercy on anyone; they do not have mercy on whoever they reach. We saw what happened to others and we do not want have to live the same experience. After what happened in Maaloula [a Syrian Christian town taken by Nusra Front], they threatened to do the same to us. They said they will do the same in one of the Christian towns of Northern Beqaa – our village is located in this area. This is a direct threat to neighboring villages and to us.

  33. Wide of militiaman aiming sniper rifle