Mosul’s remaining Christians were fleeing the city yesterday after the brutal ISIS occupiers told them to convert to Islam or face summary execution. In a statement read out at the city’s mosques, the Islamists told Christians that they had until midday to either convert or pay a “jizya” – a tax on non-Muslims. Those who refused to comply would be killed.
“We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the statement said.
The BBC reports that the group cited a historic contract known as a dhimma, in which non-Muslims must pay a fee to receive protection. They may also be subject to various humiliations, such as having to shave their heads, wear a red belt around their necks or wear only one shoe.
Patriarch Louis Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, told the AFP news agency: “Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Irbil.”
“For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” he added.
The patriarch also said that militants were tagging Christian houses with the letter ‘N’ for ‘Nassarah’ – an Islamic term for Christian.
Iraq is home to one of the world’s most ancient Christian communities. The Chaldean Catholics are an autonomous part of the Catholic Church and maintain their own liturgy and traditions. Their numbers have dwindled, however, since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Patriarch Louis said that 10,000 had fled Mosul since ISIS had taken control of the city.
There were also signs yesterday that ISIS were following through on their threats after photos emerged of Mosul’s cathedral being burned to the ground.
ISIL burned down the Syriac Catholic Archdiocese of Mosul, Iraq, few hours ago. pic.twitter.com/2JjNH0vt9R
– Rabea Allos (@rabea_allos) July 18, 2014