New York Times | Aug. 15, 2018
TEL TAL, Syria — The memories of the retired oilman dot the village in Syria where he grew up. The mud chapel he got married in. The concrete church he helped build that would overflow with worshipers on holidays. The tight community of Assyrian Christian families who had lived together in this area for generations.
Now it’s a village of ghosts.
The church is a pile of rubble, its bell tower and its cross toppled over like a felled tree. The dirt paths are overgrown, walked by stray dogs. Most homes are empty, their owners in Germany, Australia, the United States and elsewhere.
“All the houses used to be full,” said the oilman, Ishaq Nisaan, 79. “Now on my street, it’s only me and my neighbor.”
The same fate has befallen all the surrounding villages, where Assyrian Christians, one of Syria’s many religious minorities, had long farmed and raised animals along the banks of the Khabur River in the country’s northeast.