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Two Elderly Christian Women Defy ISIS as Iraqi Ghost Town’s Only Residents

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Kurdish news agency Rudaw tells the poignant story of Teleskof, a Christian town of some 4,000 souls in the Nineveh Plains evacuated last August before the advance of ISIS, save for two elderly women named Sarya Matto and Madi Salim, who adamantly refused to leave their home.

Matto said they had nowhere to run, no relatives elsewhere who would take them in, so they hunkered down in a single small room, without running water or electricity.  After ten days, the jihadis finally showed up, and put the women through an evening of terror.

“Though our house was far from the city center, 10 days later we heard human voices,” Matto recalled. “Then they knocked on our door. They were speaking Arabic. We didn’t open the door but they broke it down and came in. They were three, wearing long beards. They asked us for money but we didn’t have any. They searched the house, then one of them saw my gold cross necklace and tore it from my neck.”

She said the ISIS militants decided not to kill them because it would be a “waste of bullets,” so they settled for clubbing the women with their rifle butts before departing.  Apparently ISIS also took the time to remove the cross from the Church of St. George and replace it with their black flag.

Five days later, they were rescued by Kurdish peshmerga fighters who had retaken the town. Matto said she and Salim “cried a lot when we saw them… they helped us, they brought us food and water.”

“No one in the world has done to anyone what ISIS did to us,” Matto said of the persecution of Christians, who have been driven from their homes, murdered, or taken as slaves by the tens of thousands.

Matto and Salim are still there, although Rudaw reports no one else has returned to live in Teleskof. Peshmerga soldiers stationed in the area say the women have had a few visitors claiming to be relatives, but none who would give them someplace else to live.


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