According to the Assyrian International News Agency, the Islamic State also removed the cross on top of the dome of St. Ephrem Cathedral in the Shoorta neighborhood in Mosul, a week after the church was seized by the Islamic State on July 1. St. Ephrem Cathedral is the seat of Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese in Mosul.
The organization Human Rights Watch said today that the Islamic State is “killing, kidnapping, and threatening religious and ethnic minorities in and around” Mosul. “Since capturing Mosul on June 10, 2014, the armed Sunni extremist group has seized at least 200 Turkmen, Shabaks, and Yazidis, killed at least 11 of them, and ordered all Christians to convert to Islam, pay ‘tribute’ money, or leave Mosul by July 19.”
The group seized the buildings of the Chaldean Catholic archdiocese and the Assyrian Orthodox diocese in Mosul on June 29, several residents, government officials, and religious leaders told Human Rights Watch. They said that the Islamic State took down or destroyed six religious and cultural monuments in the city, including a statue of the Virgin Mary and an Islamic grave site.
Human Rights Watch said it spoke with about 40 regional government and religious officials, residents, witnesses, survivors of ISIS targeting, local human rights activists, and journalists during a two-week trip to northeast Iraq in June and July. Many of the interviews took place in Yazidi and Christian communities or areas where displaced Shia Turkmen and Shabaks were receiving shelter. Others spoke with Human Rights Watch by telephone.
An excerpt of the report is reprinted below.
According to the BBC, the Islamic State issued an ultimatum similar to the one that took effect today in Mosul, in the Syrian city of Raqqa in February, calling on Christians to pay about half an ounce of pure gold in exchange for their safety.
A spokesman for the Chicago-based Assyrian Church of the East, David Arkis, told Aleteia that he had also heard “very similar threats in the past 10 years from Muslim extremist in Iraq against Christians.
“Our people back home don’t have many choices, they are really powerless and unable to defend themselves especially in big cities,” Arkis said. “The country is in chaos, and the government is not strong enough and equal toward everyone to be able to defend them. International protection to minorities is minimum to non-existant, to say the least. Almighty God is the only hope out of this misery to our Assyrian Christian people in Iraq and the Middle East.”
John Burgeris news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.
Christians Threatened, Kidnapped; Properties Marked, Seized
From Human Rights Watch, July 19, 2004
Starting July 14, two local Christian authorities told Human Rights Watch that ISIS had painted a number of homes in Mosul with the letter “N” for Nasrani (Arabic for Christian), as well as the phrase, “Properties of the Islamic State.” In some cases ISIS took over the homes, they said. Christian websites posted photos of two of the properties. ISIS painted some homes of Shia Turkmen and Shabak during the same period with the letter “R” for Rafidah, they said. At the same time, ISIS members began telling local Christian merchants they would have to convert or pay a “jihad tax” to remain in Mosul.
ISIS also ordered Christians to attend a meeting with them on July 16 in Mosul to discuss the “status” of Christians, but Christians refused, an Assyrian party leader from the city told Human Rights Watch.
The following day, ISIS circulated a decree in Mosul that noted the failure of Christians to attend the meeting. The decree formalized three options for Christians in the “Caliphate of Nineveh” (ISIS’s name for Mosul): convert to Islam; pay a “jizia,” a special tax paid by non-Muslims to an Islamic state; or leave by noon on July 19. If Christians fail to comply, “then there is nothing to give them but the sword,” said the decree, which was shared with Human Rights Watch by local Christians and