An English translation has been posted on NOW Syria of the interview with the 13 nuns and three assistants taken by insurgents from the ancient Christian town of Maaloula earlier this week.
Syrian officials claimed the nuns were abducted by opposition fighters, but activists said the women were being protected from regime shelling of Maaloula after insurgents moved into the town.
The situation was further complicated by a statement from a previously-unknown group, the “Free Qalamoun Battalion”, saying it was holding the nuns and would exchange them for freedom for 1000 women prisoners of the Assad regime.
A leading media activist said there was no such battalion.
In the video, likely to be shot in the nearby town of Yabroud, the nuns thank the insurgents for evacuating them and providing them with food and shelter.
Announcer: Al-Jazeera has obtained video footage of the nuns from Saint Thecla Convent (Mar Taqla) in Maalula. The nuns confirm they are safe and that they left the convent because of intense shelling that Maalula was witnessing. The nuns are expecting to be released in two days. Al Jazeera has not verified the date of the footage, but we believe it was shot yesterday (Thursday).
Nun 1: We would like to reassure the whole world, because we know many are concerned about us and it’s heartening that we are still in people’s thoughts. As for seeking refuge from the convent, we were told that intense shelling might happen, and that we might be hurt in the shelling, so to ensure our safety, we had to evacuate the convent. So we left and there was shelling, but we pressed ahead. May God protect everyone.
Videographer: Was anyone injured? Was there fighting during your escape, or where you’ve been staying since?
Nun 1: Yes. When we first set out, there was very much intense shelling, but the cars sped up and drove very fast. We made a quick trip to the safe house we were brought to. We can say nothing but “may God reward them greatly for the services they provided us.” We would like to thank those they sent over to host us and give us food, drink, medical attention, and comfortable surroundings.
Videographer: Some reports indicated that you were in a cave or out on the street, or that those who evacuated you hurt you, or that one of the nuns was killed.
Nun 1: No, no, no. This didn’t happen at all. You can count us here: 13 nuns and three civilians. We’re still here, we’re staying in a villa. A very beautiful villa. We came here, but we’re leaving in two days [laughter].
Nun 2: We want shelling of holy places to stop – of churches, mosques, holy sites. And for peace to take place. We left due to the heavy shelling. The people [who evacuated us] were compassionate; they evacuated us and took special care of us. We are very pleased with them. They provided us with everything we need.
Videographer: Would you like to say anything to the people who may be concerned about you, or your relatives? [inaudible] Would you like to send a message to people waiting for you?
Nun 3: I’d like to tell my family that in two days we will be released and that we’re okay. We’re fine.
Videographer: Can we say that you’re abducted or held hostage?
Nun 3: No, they just moved us to a safe house because of the shelling.
Videographer: So now you’re safe from shelling?