Photographs from Inside a Tension-Filled Christian Community in Syria

The town of Qamishli, in northeast Syria, has been wracked by terrorist attacks and sectarian violence.

by Sebastian Backhaus
Mar 1 2016, 5:00am

Qamishli is a town in the northeast of Syria that, like much of the country, has been upended by the war. In December, a terrorist attack by ISIS on the town's Christian neighborhood killed more than a dozen people. In response, the Sootoro militia, a group affiliated with the Assad regime, strengthened its presence in the district and set up roadblocks in order to protect the Christian community. But Kurdish troops see themselves as being in charge of the district, and last month, sectarian violence broke out in the form of a gunfight, killing a reported three Kurds and one Christian.

Today, Qamishli, once one of the last vestiges of normality in Syria, is dominated by fear. Recently, Sebastian Backhaus toured Qamishli's Christian quarter, and this is what he saw.

All photographs by photojournalist Sebastian Backhaus.

A Sootoro fighter leaves his home. His son's room is on the left.

Sootoro fighters on patrol in Qamishli's Christian quarter.

A window of a shop that was damaged during a shootout between the Sootoro militia and Kurdish forces.

A Sootoro fighter

A bakery in Qamischli

Sootoro fighters on patrol

Another member of the Sootoro militia

A Sootoro checkpoint

Sootoro fighters on patrol

Christians at prayer at the Mariam Al Adra (the Virgin Mary) Church

The church's priest during a prayer

More Christians at prayer

Ninoua, 27, is the wife of a Sootoro fighter. She says that she will not have any more children as long as she is forced to live in Qamishli. Her parents and her brother have taken refuge in Germany. They have made every possible effort to help her leave, she says, but without a wealthy guarantor in Germany, there is no way for her to follow them.

Ninoua's seven-year-old son lights a candle in prayer after his father left to go on patrol.