[Main COI reference: Targeting, 10.7]
According to estimations, 10 % of the Syrian population are Christians. Christians live in and around the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Latakia and in Hasaka governorate. Prior to the conflict, Christians in Syria numbered around two million people. The number dropped down to 450 000, with many of them migrating to Europe and to the United States. The Christians that stayed in Syria during the conflict were reported to be heavily concentrated in government-controlled areas or in the northeast.
Christians are targeted by various actors. According to a SNHR report, a total of 124 attacks against Christian churches were documented between March 2011 and September 2019 (75 by the GoS forces, 33 by the opposition armed groups, 10 by ISIL, 2 by HTS and 4 by other parties).
In 2015, ISIL launched a massive attack in Hasaka, which led to 9 000 Assyrian Christians fleeing. The fate of 25 Christians, including that of five religious leaders, abducted by ISIL earlier, is still unknown. In July 2019, ISIL claimed responsibility for suicide attacks in a church, killing 12 people in Qamishli and for the death of a pastor in Deir Ez-Zor governorate in November 2019.
HTS seized the properties of Christians, especially of those who fled their homes. Two towns in Hama governorate have been targeted by rebel groups, which resulted in the death of 20 civilians, a predominantly Christian town was attacked with missiles by groups affiliated to Al Qaeda in Idlib, and a Christian neighbourhood in Damascus was bombarded by rebel groups, which resulted in deaths of civilians.
In Kurdish-controlled areas, ethno-religious minorities were generally able to enjoy religious freedom and safety, according to the USCIRF citing representatives of religious and ethnic minorities living in the region. The only reported point of dispute with regard to the Christians was school curriculum, which resulted in the closure of Christian schools after their refusal to teach courses according to the Kurdish curriculum. For further information, see Persons perceived to be opposing the SDF/YPG.
The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. killing, kidnapping). When the acts in question are (solely) discriminatory measures, the individual assessment of whether or not discrimination could amount to persecution should take into account the severity and/or repetitiveness of the acts or whether they occur as an accumulation of various measures.
Not all individuals under this profile would face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances such as: regional specifics (e.g. Christians in areas where opposition armed groups or ISIL operate are at higher risk, lower risk in the GoS-controlled areas and in Kurdish-controlled areas where ISIL has no operational capacity), etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is for reasons of religion and/or (imputed) political opinion.