ERBIL: Fearful Christians of Mosul tell of their aching story of their persecution by the hands of ISIS.
An Iraqi Christian Refugee Rami now settled in al-Arabi narrates the painful story of maltreatment by ISIS telling what happened when fighters from the extremist Sunni groups led by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) rolled into the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on June 10. “Despite fears about what might happen to us under the victorious jihadists, our family decided to stay, unlike many others who left,” he claimed. Later Rami and his family fled Mosul like all of the others. “We, as Christians, were in Mosul for generations,” he told.
Rami and his family are now settled in the basement of the Um Nour Church in the Christian-dominated district of Ankawa, in northern Erbil.
Our ancestors lived there for hundreds of years. It wasn’t easy to leave.
The worst fears of the Christians of Mosul were for a while relieve, as the militants did not at first resort to scare tactics. A number of Christian refugees paint a picture of a tactically tolerant Islamic State (IS) at the beginning, which progressively changed its behaviour and adopted cruel practices.
As Rami recalls, “At first, the fighters said they had orders not to do anything against Christians. They handed out green sheets containing their beliefs. They said they believed in Jesus as a prophet. … That way they made us feel safe, but then they deceived us. It was normal for some time. We lived with them. One of their fighters once got into my cab. When he wanted to pay, I refused to take the payment [out of politeness], but he did not accept and paid, But when they founded the caliphate, they changed, and everyone saw they started imposing more restrictions. We were a fundamental part of Mosul’s fabric and lived with its Muslim community for centuries,” still in disbelief added, “But we are now left like this.”
Rami’s sister, Zina, says “We women, especially, got more scared after the nuns were kidnapped. We did not know what was going to happen to the rest of us.” When we fled she says,” They stopped us at the checkpoint and took everything we had.”
Another displaced Christian woman UM Zaki says, “We were very angry and felt helpless, based on their initial behavior, we did not anticipate this. They took everything we had obtained over years, from cars to extra clothes, cell phones, jewelry and money.” They even searched and emptied our pockets,” she recalled.
A young Christian Haitham Yusef, said he sees little hope in Iraq. “If the situation continues as it is, we cannot go back home and will have to move abroad just like many other Iraqis and Christians,” he stated. “Things might be better for us there. We are left with nothing here,” he said. Yusef studied ceramic art in Mosul,
Yusef’s friend Wesam added, “We cannot stay here in this country, there is no opportunity for us. There is no future.”
Most of the displaced Christians said the ISIS jihadists endeavoured to present a positive image from June 10 until the end of the month. The jihadists managed to provide intermittent electricity and water services and regulated traffic as well. They even provided free public transportation at times. But it was only until the time when ISIS declared a caliphate on June 29 and changed its name to the Islamic State IS; they started to impose Sharia rules on all of Mosul’s inhabitants. For Christians the tragedy began when on July 14, the jihadists with a campaign to identify Christian properties painted the letter “N” for “Nasrani” (Arabic for “Christian”) on properties owned by Christians and designated them as the “Islamic State’s estate.”