Diana Hanna Honein
Diana Hanna is a Christian woman from the town of Jisr al-Shughur in northwestern Syria. She is married to George Honein, a math teacher whom she met when she was still in college. By the time the couple had their first child in 2011, peaceful protests in Syria had turned violent, and the country fell into one of the bloodiest civil wars the region had ever seen.
It wasn’t long before large numbers of Islamist fighters began surrounding Diana’s hometown. Neighboring villages started falling one after the other in the hands of the gunmen, until one day masses of terrorists stormed and captured Jisr al-Shughur. Just like in other parts of the country, the local civilian population ended up paying the heaviest price. Soon after taking the town, bloodthirsty gunmen began executing the men and taking women and children as captives.
Fortunately for Diana and her family, they were among the lucky ones who managed to escape the carnage. They took whatever they could fit in a small bag and fled to the neighboring city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. After living in a tiny apartment for a few months, word reached the couple that their hometown was liberated from the terrorists who had occupied it. Despite the risks and knowing that rebel forces were still in the vicinity of their town, Diana and George decided to go back home. Little did they know that their hometown was almost completely razed to the ground and had become the frontline for opposing forces.
Just like in horror movies, scenes of explosions, kidnappings, and car bombings happened daily in Jisr al-Shughur. Diana still remembers the horrible bombings that took place on the day she gave birth to her second son. The joy of welcoming her newborn was replaced with fear and anxiety as the baby entered this world to the sounds of explosions and gunfire.
Diana and her family were now reduced to living in constant fear. They barely left their home while their finances continued to rapidly deteriorate. In April 2015, things took a drastic turn for the Honeins and the villagers of Jisr al-Shughur. The entire town was awakened by deafening sounds of explosions and shouts of “Allah Akbar.” ISIS fighters had invaded their hometown again. They broke through the lines of the defenders who withdrew in panic, leaving behind the local civilian population to the mercy of brutal terrorists.
Terrified, Diana and George grabbed their children and ran to the town’s church seeking shelter. Just like generations of their ancestors before them, Christians in the Middle East always fled to the town’s church in times of hardship seeking protection and to be united in their fate. Once in the church the doors were sealed, and the horrified civilians began praying for God’s mercy. Unfortunately for them, ISIS terrorists arrived shortly afterwards. They broke down the doors and began terrorizing the helpless townspeople. They vandalized the church and destroyed all symbols of Christianity. Then they began mercilessly beating the men while rounding up women and children to be taken as captives.
In a surreal twist of fate, a helicopter hovering close by fired a missile at a group of fighters gathered near the church, killing several and wreaking havoc upon the rest of the gunmen. During the confusion, Diana and her family made a run for their lives. They ran away from their captors and jumped into a passing vehicle along with others who climbed on the roof in a desperate attempt to save their lives. The driver hastily drove away as fast as the car could go.
The farther away they got from the town, the more they realized that their prayers were being answered and that their miraculous escape was becoming a reality. Eventually, the driver dropped off the Honeins at a Christian monastery in a nearby town where they hid for a few weeks before resuming their trip towards the city of Aleppo.
The Honeins had already been suffering financially and had just lost all their belongings in the previous attack. Once in Aleppo, George began desperately looking for a job, but the city was ravaged by war and had limited resources to offer, especially to refugees. To make things worse terrorists had found George’s cellphone number and began sending death threats to him and his family if they ever returned to hometown of Jisr al-Shughur.
After struggling for years with death threats and on the verge of hunger, the Honeins ran out of options. Thankfully one day TNF operatives learned about them, established contact, and began preparing for an extraction mission. Reaching the border was not an easy task, especially since the team had to pass through large areas occupied by terrorists.
Despite all the risks, our highly skilled operatives moved the Honeins to safety on a 72-hour mission evading gunmen in the wilderness between Syria and Iraq.
Once in Iraq, the family was reunited with George’s family who were rescued earlier. Diana and her family are currently in a safe area under the care of TNF until they are safely relocated overseas.