Project Description

SAINT MARY (Mart Meryem):  Assyrian Church in Tel Nasri, Al Hassakah Governorate

Saint Mary’s Church in Tel Nasri was built in 1934 and was one of the three most important Christian places of worship in the town, which is located in Al-Hasakah Governorate. Most of Tel Nasri’s inhabitants were Assyrians who professed the Christian faith. Even the name of the town, loosely translated as “Christian Hill”, reflects its long connection to Christianity.

In February 2015 the terrorists attacked a number of Assyrian villages along the River Khabur in Hassakah Province, including Tel Nasri and they kidnapped hundreds of Assyrian Christians.

That year, ISIS celebrated Easter by blowing up St. Mary’s Church in Tel Nasri. On the morning of Sunday, 6 April – Easter Sunday – at 9am, ISIS bombed the Assyrian Church of Saint Mary, the latest in their campaign of terror. The bombing reportedly led to the destruction of major parts of the site. There were no victims among worshipers. Due to the intensification of the military action in the neighborhood, the church did not held a regular celebration on that Sunday. Tel Nasri, was near the front where ISIS was being engaged by Kurdish fighters, who had managed to slow the terrorists’ advance through parts of Syria and Iraq. According to Assyrian media reports, the explosion came after Kurdish forces attempted to re-enter Tel Nasri.

Following the attack, the Assyrian Network for Human Rights issued a statement, condemning the blast as “a war crime” according to international humanitarian law – which prohibits the targeting of religious facilities during the armed conflicts for any reason”. ISIS had worked out a strategy to destroy Christian heritage across Al-Hasakah, demolishing churches in Qabr Shamia and Tel Jazira. When the terrorists gained ground, they typically requisitioned Christian religious sites and violated their sanctity by desecrating altars, statues and other faith symbols.