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Iraqi refugees targets of sectarian violence in escalating Syrian civil war

July 23, 2012

GENEVA

Thousands of refugees, mainly Iraqis living in the war-ravaged Syrian capital of Damascus, have fled their homes due to the escalating violence and increased sectarian troubles, United Nations officials said on July 20.

A senior UN diplomat, speaking on the condition of non-attribution, told ENInews “the refugees were being accused of belonging to the Shia faith, and of supporting the Assad regime.”

“Many are receiving death threats and fear for their lives, and feel extremely insecure,” the official added.

“With the spread of deadly violence, I am  gravely concerned for the thousands of Syrian civilians and refugees who have been forced to flee their homes,” said Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in a statement .

There are still 88,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria, including Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians. Syrian Church leaders share the fears expressed by the U.N. official.

The Assad Syrian regime has been ruled predominately by Alawites, but has been secular, and only as hostilities have advanced has the conflict started to take on a religious dimension, said Jubin Goodarzi, professor of international relations at Webster University in Geneva.

“One lives an apocalypse in Damascus, and we hope with all our heart, mind and strength, that resurrection may soon arrive. The destruction is enormous,” said Monsignor Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, in an interview with the Vatican news service Fides.

Greek Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham told Fides that “the Syrians, thanks to their long history, can solve this dangerous crisis helping each other, through love and forgiveness. We launch an urgent appeal for dialogue, reconciliation, peace: this is one of the rarest languages that many people do not want to hear.”

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