For the second year in a row, Mariam Sarkis' parents did not celebrate Christmas. In December 2015, their daughter was still being held by the Islamic State organization. Although she was later released, this past Christmas the parents were mourning their only son, Basil, who died Dec. 5 in clashes that erupted in the north of Raqqa. Basil, 25, fought against IS in the ranks of the Souturo forces allied with the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Mariam's family belongs to the Assyrian Christian minority. They're from the village of Tell Shamiram, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the northwest of the city of Hasakah in northern Syria.
Mariam and her parents were kidnapped along with 234 Assyrians during a dawn attack by IS on Feb. 23, 2015, on the predominantly Assyrian villages located on the banks of the Khabour River. Her father was held for more than five months, and her mother for nine.
Mariam, 20 years old, is thin with dark brown eyes. "A year and two months ago, when I was still kidnapped, one of the jailers came to us and shouted my mother's name [for her to be released] but did not say mine! It was the end of the world to me," she told Al-Monitor.
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