The story of Wanis and Minas Livonian, two Syrian-Armenians from the north Syrian city of Aleppo, seems almost out of this world. They were killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and its local Sharia committee forbade their family from burying them.
Aleppo resident Anis Livonian, known as Abu Minas, owned a small ice factory in the eastern Aleppo countryside’s Bab district. The factory was the entire fortune of this 69 year old. When ISIS reached the region four months ago, it took control of the factory.
No one can imagine what Wanis and his son Minas, 38, were thinking when they decided to risk their lives and head to the industrial city in Sheikh Najjar. Certainly, they didn’t imagine it would lead to their deaths.
The father visited the booty department at ISIS headquarters, seeking a deal with the emir, but ISIS arrested them at once when it discovered they were Armenians.
Three months later, an ISIS religious judge came to the two men with a solution. A former prisoner of ISIS told Al-Akhbar, “Abu Issa told them: Convert to Islam and you will be safe." Wanis was married with two daughters and a son. Minas was married with three children, the oldest 11 years old. Their family tried to obtain information about their whereabouts but to no avail.
Three months later, an ISIS religious judge came to the two men with a solution. A former prisoner of ISIS told Al-Akhbar, “Abu Issa told them: Convert to Islam and you will be safe." Naturally, they quickly agreed, declaring the shahada. Then, the two “Muslim Armenians” were sent back to their cell “temporarily."
Though Abu Issa had promised to release them, three days later Minas asked an “investigator” frequenting the prison about the reasons behind the delay. He answered, “The emir was not convinced by your Islam." Minas asked, “How was he not? We swore!” The investigator replied, “You, people of the book, your bible is distorted and your beliefs are void. You must have pretended that you converted to Islam to fool us."
According to the source, before the battles between ISIS and the armed opposition groups reached the prison, the two men were told, along with other prisoners, that they would appear before a judge. However, the judge was a gun, and the verdict was two bullets in the head.
The tragedy didn’t end with their death. A family member told Al-Akhbar, “We found out about their death over the Internet. It was very sad."
The relatives sought to retrieve the bodies. “We wanted to hold a decent burial for them, is not that the minimum we can do?”
Finally, some volunteers at a civil society organization managed to locate the bodies being held by the Aleppo Sharia Committee, which refused to hand over the body. Reportedly, the committee said, “This is impossible. They declared their Islam. They are now martyrs and should be buried in a proper way, according to Sharia.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.