Fact Check: Syrian Refugees Are NOT Exclusively Non-Christians

Fact Check

  • by: Jamal Halaby
Fact Check: Syrian Refugees Are NOT Exclusively Non-Christians False Claim

Did all Syrian Christians stay in their country despite the war that broke out in 2011? No, that's not true: A 2017 report by three Christian advocacy groups, Open Doors, Served, and Middle East Concern, estimated that the Christian population of Syria has been "roughly halved," since 2011, from around 2 million to 800,000.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) and posted on TikTok on May 26, 2023, under the title: "A fiery response to all those who normalized with the criminal Bashar Assad." In the video, Faisal al-Qassem, a British-Syrian television commentator, made a claim suggesting that the Syrian civil war was orchestrated to remove the predominantly Sunni Muslim population from the region. However, his argument falsely stated that only Sunni Muslims fled the war-torn country over the past 12 years while disregarding the displacement of minority communities such as Christians, Druze, and the ruling Alawites, who belong to the Shiite Islam sect.

17 seconds into the video, al-Qassem claimed that "not a single Christian" was among the millions of Syrians who fled the country since 2011.

It opened:

Out of the 16 million (Syrian) refugees who fled, there is not one Alawite, not a single Christian and not one Druze...they were all Sunnis.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Faisal al-Qassem.jpg

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon May 29 12:46:26 2023 UTC)

According to a The New York Times report, published in January 2021, about 10 percent of Syria's population of 21 million were Christian before the war began in 2011. "Now, they account for about 5 percent, with fewer than 700,000 left, according to groups that track the persecution of Christians around the world," the report says.

New York Times on Syrian Christians.jpg

Syrian Christians, like their peers in Iraq and elsewhere in the region, have repeatedly been targeted by Muslim militant groups in the country. In July 2019, a suicide car bombing took place near a church in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli. The attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State (IS), resulted in significant injuries to at least 12 individuals and damaged a section of the church building.

The blast "shows that Christians remain a major target of the terror group," according to Voice of America, which cited local officials, who usually refuse to discuss data and numbers pertaining to the minority communities in the country.

  Jamal Halaby

Jamal Halaby is a fact-checker, who has been working with Lead Stories for nearly two years, helping bring the truth and factual information to the organization's global audience. With extensive background in investigative journalism and content writing and editing in Arabic and English, Jamal uses that experience to expose a burgeoning market of misinformation and disinformation. Previously, he worked as a writer for the Associated Press and several other reputable international news organizations. He has a passion for empirical analysis and discerning the veracity of the news.

Read more about or contact Jamal Halaby

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