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Persecution of Christians loathsome
August 05, 2014
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Hundreds of Christians have fled Iraq’s extremist-held Mosul fearing an ultimatum to accept Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) members’ theocratic options. The ISIS has been persecuting minorities and demolishing historic monuments, an act that has invited worldwide condemnation. The Gulf Today Political Team takes a look at the goings-on.

Hundreds of Christian families have fled their homes in Iraq’s extremist-held Mosul fearing an ultimatum to accept Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) members’ options, a security source said. It has been happening for some weeks now. The ISIS has renamed itself as Islamic State (IS).

On June 29, the IS proclaimed an Islamic caliphate extending from the Syrian province of Aleppo to Diyala in Iraq, a measure which was rejected by other rebel groups in both countries. The IS is being led by Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. It is believed by some that the organisation is propped up by former Baathists and has money, power and arms.

All of the Christian families who lived in Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, have left the city by the third week of July — a deadline declared by the IS for the Christians to convert to Islam, leave the city, pay tax or die, Xinhua also reported citing a security source as saying. More than two dozen prayer-less churches now lie abandoned as worshippers have fled.

The Christian minority, who lived for nearly 2,000 years in Mosul and several nearby towns and villages, have fled either abroad or to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan due to the chaos and daily violence over the past many years. Their number added up to 60,000 in Mosul, according to one estimate. Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 there were over a million Christians. “The latest exodus of the remaining about 375 families of the minority in the city has increased since the IS members started to put signs on the houses of Christian families marking “properties of the Islamic State,” the source said. The IS published a statement offering three options for the Christians — convert to Islam, pay a tax named “Jizya,” or “if they refuse there would be nothing then but the sword.”

War participation
The “Jizya” is an old name of a tax levied on non-Muslim able-bodied male adults to exempt them from participating in wars.

But then the non-Muslim subjects were given the right to practice their faith and be entitled to the Muslim state’s protection from outside aggression.

The self-proclaimed Muslims’ new ruler Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi granted the Christians another option, which is to leave the IS-seized city by themselves without their properties by the deadline.

The crisis has taken a turn for the worse after Sunni insurgent groups took control of Mosul, the second largest city, and then progressed to other areas in the north and centre of the country.

A spokesman for Iraq’s minority Yazidi community said tens of thousands of its members have fled their homes after the Islamic State group captured their towns.

Jawhar Ali Begg, the spokesman, said about 40,000 Yazidis have left their homes in the northern towns of Sinjar and Zumar, seeking refuge in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

He said the IS on Sunday gave the Yazidis an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a tax or flee their homes — otherwise they would face death.

Begg also told The Associated Press that “thousands of Yazidi people have been killed” in the onslaught by the Islamic State group.

France offers asylum

The French government has said that it was ready to welcome Christians fleeing from Iraqi city of Mosul which is now controlled by the Islamic State, media reported.

“France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a joint statement last week.

“The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by the Islamic State is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that extremist groups in Iraq pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region,” they said.  “We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum in France.”

“We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them,” the two ministers said.


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