International Christian Concern | June 25, 2020
On Monday, the terrorist group HTS (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) detained one of its own former commanders for defecting. HTS raided the house of defector Jamal Zeina, better known as Abu Malek al-Tali, in Syria’s Idlib. Al-Tali defected from HTS after a disagreeing with the group’s commander. He instead reportedly joined one of al-Qaeda’s more hardline branches known as “the Guardians of Religion.”
While a member of HTS, al-Tali was behind the December 2013 kidnapping of 12 Orthodox nuns from Maaloula, a Christian village in Syria. The extremists later exchanged the nuns for women held in Syrian prisons. Al-Tari defected after acquiring a large sum of money from the nuns’ release deal.
His detainment is a consequence of political infighting between Islamic terrorist groups. However, al-Tali’s trajectory of involvement in different extremist groups show just how complex the Syrian environment is and how persecution of Christians remains a constant theme. Whether al-Tali was involved in HTS or a different terrorist group, the idea of a uniform religion of which Christians have no part remained. It also shows how terrorists use persecution of Christians for profit, further fueling the cycle. Until these issues are untangled, Syria remains a hostile place for Christians.