An Armenian church in northern Syria has opened for worship.
The first mass in the church was held Sunday. Armenians living in Tel Abyad came to the church, lit candles and prayed, Anadolu Agency reports.
Turkey says it has repaired the church, which, it claims, had long been used by Kurds as military headquarters and had eventually been extensively damaged.
Meanwhile, Jenan Moussa, a reporter for pan-Arab Al Aan satellite television station, proves in a thread of tweets that the Armenian church was recently vandalized by Turkey-backed Syrian groups who captured Tel Abyad after U.S. pulled out.
She quotes witnesses as saying that vandalism took place on or around October 31, 2019.
“Armed members of Syrian rebel groups entered Armenian church in Tel Abyad on or around 31 Oct 2019. They smashed and broke the Virgin Maria statue. Other religious objects (pictures, candles etc) were thrown on floor. Wooden church seats were turned over,” Jenan Moussa tweets.
“According to eyewitnesses, members of Syrian rebel groups who vandalized the Armenian church in Tel Abyad claimed that the presence of a church in their areas is sinful,” the reporter says in a separate post.
The church had already been vandalized by ISIS during its rule in 2014-2015. Armenians repaired the damage after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took the control of the town.
Jenan Moussa says she stayed in touch with people in Tal Abyad, Arabs and Armenians.
“They told me the situation was stable from 2017 until October 2019. ISIS damage got renovated and the church was open. This changed October 9 after U.S. pulled out of North Syria and Turkey started operation Peace Spring,” the reporter continues.
She assures that reports claiming that the SDF used the Armenian church as its headquarters & hung PKK flags in the church is “fake news.” As a proof the journalists shares two screenshots from a rebel channel (Halab TV) dated October 18, which show that the church had not been vandalized, when rebels entered Tel Abyad.