Ana Maria Luca & Luna Safwan

Another nun's bloody accusations

A Turkish nun's depiction of rebels' treatment of Christians does not match on-the-ground accounts


Christian women raped and mutilated by mujahideen; Christian families slaughtered; young men being tortured and killed. Above all, rumors abound about mujahideen who kill Christians and drain, bottle, and sell their blood in Saudi Arabia for $100,000 apiece. These are some of the false allegations one Syrian Orthodox nun who claims to have spoken to over 200 Christian women in the country told a human rights gathering in Vienna on December 26.


The video of Hatune Dogan, the Orthodox nun in question, shows her telling headline-grabbing stories on European blogs and Christian websites. Even Worldnet Daily interviewed her about the matter.


The Syriac nun’s story surfaced at a time when the United Nations was discussing atrocities committed by jihadist factions in northern Syria, labeling the summary executions as war crimes, said a UN press release issued last week. According to reports emerging in the first week of January from Aleppo and Idlib, people were executed in both cities and three ISIS-held captives were found shot in the head with their bodies still handcuffed. Many other deceased, also handcuffed and blindfolded, were found in a children’s hospital that ISIS had used as base until a raid by other armed opposition groups forced it to withdraw.


An eyewitness interviewed by the UN Human Rights Office identified at least four local media activists among the dead, as well as captured fighters affiliated with various armed opposition groups. It is in this context where Sister Dogan’s account created quite the stir in Western policy and media circles.


The nun has her own troubled past. Dogan’s family requested asylum in Germany in the 1980s due to the discrimination against Christians in Turkey, and she has since made it her life’s mission to work with persecuted Christians. She now heads a charity foundation that works with Christians in war zones or poor countries. Yet critics note that the nun has for some time made highly controversial anti-Islamic stances in her public statements.


In an interview in 2011, Dogan claimed that Coptic Christian girls in Egypt are routinely kidnapped, raped, mutilated, and forcibly converted to Islam. These stories bear an eerie resemblance to the false claims she said she heard from Syria in 2014. In the same 2011 interview, Dogan tells the story of two Iraqi Christian brothers who were tortured with cuts to their arms that were subsequently filled with salt; this account was similarly replicated in her story of two Syrian Christian men in her most recent conference. 


In November 2012, Dogan launched an appeal to German politicians to keep Muslim immigrants under control and bar them from entering Europe because she believed Islam was dangerous. Also in 2012, the same nun spoke with journalists in Ghana explaining how Syrian rebel fighters stole uniforms from the state army and committed massacres in order to blame the regime.  


However, and despite Dogan’s controversial comments, in 2010 she was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit by the German presidency for her charity work in Nepal, Iraq, and India, and her voice has gained credibility in some Western Christian circles.


NOW spoke with several Syrian men detained by jihadist fighters, who either experienced or witnessed torture. “Being detained in an ISIS headquarter was not very different from being detained in the regime’s dungeons,” said Ammar*, one activist taken captive by ISIS in Aleppo. Yet of all the former detainees with whom NOW spoke, none witnessed any discrimination between Christian, Muslim, or atheist prisoners in Aleppo, nor had they heard about any Christian blood being sold to Saudi Arabia.


NOW also spoke with Souad Nofal, an ISIS opponent from Raqqa who took refuge in Turkey three months ago because of threats against her. Nofal told NOW that she doesn’t remember hearing of any assaults on Christian families in town. “But [ISIS] did damage a church in Raqqa: they took down the big cross and burned some of the holy books. This is a violation against Christians. This is why many Christian families had to flee Raqqa to other areas, to relatively safer ones," she said.


The testimonies of the Syrians detained by ISIS and freed after the fighting between other rebels and the Al-Qaeda faction all speak of torture, beatings, sleep deprivation, and summary executions, but never about a bloodletting ritual or rape and mutilation of women. “In sharia, this is totally wrong. It’s haram. It’s blasphemy,” Tripoli-based Sunni cleric Nabil Rahim told NOW. “This is probably just another rumor invented by the people who support the Assad regime. This was being spread before, and I doubt it is correct at all.”


Ana Maria Luca tweets @aml1609.


Luna Safwan tweets @LunaSafwan.

Hatune Dogan, an Orthodox nun, has accused Islamist rebels of selling vials of blood from the bodies of deceased Christians. (Image courtesy of adevarul.ro)

“In sharia, this is totally wrong. It’s haram. It’s blasphemy.”

  • Vlad Tepes

    They are takfiris (...)! They probably hate Shias and Muslims who have any of the different interpretations of the Koran more than Christians. So what if the nun is stretching the truth? Stretching the truth is just as common on this website as it was during the protests in Daraa. A village of 75000 with no real media coverage and a high concentration of Islamists.

    January 20, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    1-If the accounts by former prisoners that rebels' treatment of prisoners is just like the Assad regime's treatment of its prisoners, then I see no one side having the higher moral ground. 2-We have seen such flagrant human rights violations for decades now by both the Assad regime (thousands of Lebanese were kidnapped in occupied Lebanon, illegally extradited to Syria, where they were tortured and killed), and by Jihadis of all brands in Iraq and Afghanistan. So why be surprised or scandalized by such behavior? 3- That the Jihadis do not discriminate between Christians or non-Christians in their brutal treatment of prisoners does not make their crimes any less criminal. 4- What do you expect a nun to do other than speak about the ill-treatment of Christians? 5-Highly-placed, well-respected Muslim muftis and clergymen in Saudi Arabia propagate on a daily basis such libelous accusations (bloodletting, etc.) against Jewish, Israeli, Christian, and Western societies and governments whom they often compare to pigs and monkeys (because the Koran apparently uses this language), yet no one in the Arab-Muslim world, including NOW editors and reporters, ever say anything about it. So why the focus on this and the other nun after whom Michael Weiss went for several months? Are you trying to nudge the West more in favor of the rebels than the regime? Are you trying to discredit the established fact that Christian communities are fast disappearing from the Middle East? What is the point of your focus on this little and insignificant Christian nun, if her claims are lies, in the grand scheme of the atrocities committed by Muslim men, soldiers, rebels, and governments in Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world?

    January 20, 2014