Iraqi Christians Flee for Their Lives after ISIS Ultimatum
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has emptied Mosul of Christians, Christian leaders lamented earlier this week, after the Islamist group issued them an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay non-Muslim jhizya taxes - or die.
“We offer [Christians] three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment... if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” an announcement blared from the city's mosques on Friday afternoon.
Under the strict Islamic Sharia doctrine, non-Muslims living under their sovereignty must pay a special tax -- known as the "Jizyah" -- in return for the ruler's protection, or “Thima.”
Hundreds of Iraqis, the last of Iraq's shrinking Christian community, were forced to flee for their lives.
“For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” Patriarch Louis Sako lamented to the British Telegraph, as hundreds of families fled ahead of a noon deadline.
Hundreds were walking on foot; a bishop in the neighboring city of Tel Keif told the daily that many of them were bereft of all money or possessions - and that ISIS had robbed them of all of their belongings before setting off for refugee camps.
The announcement was issued directly from ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, now known as "Caliph Ibrahim," who has reportedly ordered all Christians on ISIS territory to convert or leave.
And there is no way of hiding from ISIS, according to the report - as the terrorists had begun marking houses with an "N," for "Nassarah" or Christian, to ensure that the "infidels" of Mosul are well-known.
Some 60,000 people identified as "Christian" in Mosul before 2003, according to AFP, but that dropped to some 35,000 by June 2014. Another 10,000 allegedly fled Mosul after ISIS invaded in June, leaving 25,000 stranded with the Islamist extremists.
ISIS apparently presents this contract as standard practice, after reports in May revealed that a similar "deal" has been offered to Syria's Christian community.