Iraqi Christians flee Mosul after ISIS Islamists demand conversion or protection tax
By End the Lie
The Christian population is currently fleeing the Iraqi city of Mosul after Islamist militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said they must either convert to Islam or pay a protection tax called a “jizya.”
The Christians were reportedly told that if they did not comply by midday Saturday, they would be killed, the BBC reports.
“We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” ISIS said in a statement.
Christians are already fleeing into the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
“Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Irbil,” Patriarch Louis Sako said to AFP. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.”
Sako, one of the most senior Christian clerics in Iraq, said that ISIS militants were painting Christian homes with the letter “N” for “Nassarah.” The Qur’an refers to Christians as “Nassarah” in Surah 2:62.
This latest exodus is just part of a larger fleeing of Christians from Mosul. Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the increase in sectarian violence that followed, there were as many as 60,000 Christians in Mosul.
In June, only 35,000 Christians remained in the city, according to Sako. An additional 10,000 Christians fled Mosul after ISIS took control of the city in June and more continued to flee.
Al Jazeera put the number of Christians in Mosul before the attack at a mere 3,000.
The head of the UN assistance mission in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, condemned the ultimatum issued by ISIS on Friday.
“Any persecution of minorities constitutes a crime against humanity and we urge all sides to protect civilians,” Mladenov said. “We have produced a report listing attacks on civilians and have brought this up at the highest levels of the Iraqi government.”
It is not just Mosul that is threated by these Islamist militants. The historic Christian town of Qaraqosh was also threatened last month. The Kurdish pesh merga forces protected the town, according to The Washington Post.
Even that city is being abandoned as more Christians flee into neighboring countries and Kurdish cities.
“Bags are packed, people are leaving for good because it’s almost impossible to live here right now,” said Louis Marcus Ayub, a 54-year-old Catholic member of the city council of Bakhdida. “If there’s no political solution, we’re in danger of disappearing.”
Nearly all of the 50,000 residents fled Bakhdida for the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil for protection after ISIS Jihadists launched mortar attacks late last month.
The Christian population in Iraq has diminished from 1.5 million to a mere 400,000 due to the persecution faced after 2003, according to the Post.