BAGHDAD: If ISIS militants stay in Mosul, there is no way Christians can return to their homes.
Iraqi Christians who fled the northern city of Iraq-Mosul threatened by ISIS and given ultimatum either to convert to Islam or face execution by the jihadists have spoken of their terror as churches were turned into mosques and their homes and property confiscated. Last weekend Isis gave the city’s Christians a severe choice: convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, or face death.
“They said there is no place for Christians in the Islamic state,” a distressed Christian refugee said. “Either you become Muslim or you leave.”
Many Christians fleeing ISIS found refuge in areas between Mosul and Irbil. Adding to their tragedy Mosul’s last 1,500 Christian families were so they say robbed at Isis checkpoints as they fled.
Father Boutrous Moshi resident of Qara Qoosh- a Christian area south-east of Mosul says, “If ISIS stays, there is no way the Christians can return. It is up to God whether we return or not. They have not burned the churches but they did set fire to the pictures and the books and broke the windows.”
Sarab Hazem, resident of Zehoor a neighbourhood of Mosul said,” initially there were no attacks on Christians when Isis took the city in a lightning offensive in June, though Isis fighters did capture and take away police, security agents and soldiers. “No one knows what becomes of them. Then, statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary were destroyed.” “They are savages,” he added. “This is oppression for no reason,” he went on to say.
“I believe it is no longer possible for Christians to live in Iraq,” he claimed.
A 52- year-old Iraqi Christian resident of Mosul Bashar Nasih Behnam, who fled with his two young children last Friday, said, “ISIS threatened us and said you can’t stay in Mosul and you have to leave. They said we have conditions: either you comply with them or you leave. So we left. There is not a single Christian family left in Mosul. The last one was a disabled Christian woman. She stayed because she could not get out. They came to her and said you have to get out and if you don’t we will cut off your head with a sword. That was the last family. We don’t know if we are going to go back. Until now we have no idea if there can be a return. We don’t know what our destiny is. They have even taken our houses in Mosul.”
“There is not a single family that left and was not robbed. They took our money, gold, even the earrings from our women’s ears. They took everything, even mobile phones,” he revealed.
A Christian shopkeeper from Mosul’s al-Rifa’i neighbourhood, Bassem Fadel Zarghit, said,” the city’s Christians had felt doomed despite initial reassurance from Isis. There is no one left. It’s not just the Christians. It’s also the Shia that are being targeted.”
In another incident, two nuns who were looking after three orphans were kidnapped by ISIS militants nevertheless released later. The ISIS militants spray painted Arabic letter “N” for Nasrani (Christians) on the doors of houses – to illustrate that they had been seized as the property of the Islamic state ISIS.