For more than a week since the arrival in Mosul, Iraq, of the jihadist terror group Islamic State (formerly ISIS), reports out of the city were relatively quiet. ISIS, NBC reported, dedicated itself to rebuilding infrastructure and helping Sunni Muslims. All that changed this week, as the last Christian was forced out of the ancient city.
Reports began surfacing last week that after using the first weeks of its rule to cement its position in Mosul’s power structure, ISIS, having now established a ration system for food, had begun denying rations to Christians and Shi’ite Muslims in the city. The Assyrian International News Agency reported that food shop workers and goods merchants were warned that providing food and goods to Christians could result in death.
The news traveled swiftly after that. This week, ISIS began distributing pamphlets to Christians in Mosul, warning that they had the option of either converting to Sunni Islam, leaving the city and relinquishing all their possessions to ISIS, or being killed:
— Mollyann (@mollyann_hesser) July 18, 2014
The images of ISIS’s ravaging of the city began to surface shortly thereafter: homes spray-painted with the letter “N”–for “Nazarene,” as in Jesus of Nazareth–and a mass exodus of Christians forced to leave the city with no money, no food, and no place to go.
Like Nazis, ISIS mark Mosul homes with Arabic letter ? for Nasrani(Christian)&tell them to convert,pay head-tax,or die pic.twitter.com/CUa9hlSWyM
— Maajid Nawaz (@MaajidNawaz) July 19, 2014
As the Christian residents fled, ISIS began burning down the city’s most important Christian monuments, from the Syriac Catholic Archdiocese of Mosul to a smaller, 1,800-year-old church within city limits. It is believed that currently, finally, all Christians have left the city, choosing to begin their lives elsewhere over converting to the ISIS version of radical Sunni Islam. As Breitbart News’ Tera Dahl reports from nearby Erbil, Iraq–where many Christians are believed to be fleeing– it is estimated that cities like Erbil, which are safe from ISIS, thanks to the work of Kurdish peshmerga soldiers, will receive up to 500,000 Christian refugees.
Even in such moments of so little choice from Christian communities, however, resistance has sprung. Distributed widely through social media, particularly Twitter, there is an image Monday of anti-ISIS graffiti in the heart of Mosul, a vandalism of ISIS’s own vandalism of a home. Using the red “N” sprayed on what was recently a Christian building, someone has spelled out: “We are all Christians”:
— Raquel E Saraswati (@RaquelEvita) July 20, 2014
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom many see as having little to no ability to control the chaos in his country, has spoken up against the persecution of Christians by ISIS. “What is being done by the Daesh terrorist gang against our Christian citizens in Ninevah province, and their aggression against the churches and houses of worship in the areas under their control reveals beyond any doubt the extremist criminal and terrorist nature of this group,” Maliki said on Sunday, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Many see Maliki’s navigation through the current crisis as problematic. While attempting to court the favor of Sunni Muslims who may be persuaded by ISIS by having his government name a Sunni as Parliament speaker, Maliki has been significantly antagonistic against the nation’s Kurdish population. He has accused them of working alongside ISIS, despite the fact that Kurdish peshmerga have been instrumental in preventing the spread of ISIS, while Iraq’s military experienced mass desertions during the initial days of the ISIS initiative.