Persecution of Christians by ISIL
The persecution of Christians by ISIL involves the systematic mass murder of Christian minorities, within its region of control in Iraq, Syria and Libya by the Islamic extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Persecution of Christian minorities climaxed following its takeover of parts of Northern Iraq in June 2014.
|Persecution of Christians by ISIL|
|Part of 2014 Northern Iraq offensive and Iraqi Civil War (2014-2017)|
|Location||Iraq, Syria, Libya|
|Target||mostly Assyrians, Arab Christians, Levantines, Armenians, Copts, and all Non-Muslims.|
|Ethnic cleansing, abuse, and forced conversions to an extremist version of Wahhabism|
|Victims||135,000 Assyrian refugees|
|Perpetrators||Islamic State of Iraq and Levant|
|Defenders||Syriac Military Council|
Qaraqosh Protection Committee
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Syrian Armed Forces
Lebanese Armed Forces
Syrian Democratic Forces
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of the Catholic Church
According to US diplomat Alberto M. Fernandez, "While the majority of victims in the conflict raging in Syria and Iraq have been Muslims, Christians have borne a heavy burden given their small numbers."
On February 3, 2016, the European Union recognized the persecution of Christians by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as genocide. The vote was unanimous. The United States followed suit on March 15, 2016, declaring these atrocities as genocide. The vote was unanimous. On April 20, 2016, British Parliament voted unanimously to denounce the actions as genocide. A similar motion however failed in Canada when it was opposed by the majority of MP's in Justin Trudeau's Liberal government.
The mass flight and expulsion of ethnic Assyrians from Iraq is a process which initiated with the Iraq War in 2003 and continues to this day. Leaders of Iraq's Assyrian community estimate that over two-thirds of the Iraqi Assyrian population may have fled the country or been internally displaced since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 until 2011. Reports suggest that whole neighborhoods of Assyrians have cleared out in the cities of Baghdad and Basra, and that Sunni insurgent groups and militias have threatened Assyrian Christians. Following the campaign of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Iraq in August 2014, one quarter of the remaining Iraqi Assyrians fled the jihadists, finding refuge in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Northern Iraq (2014)
After the fall of Mosul, ISIL demanded that Assyrian Christians living in the city convert to Islam, pay jizyah, or face execution, by July 19, 2014. ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi further noted that Christians who do not agree to follow those terms must "leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate" within a specified deadline. This resulted in a complete Assyrian Christian exodus from Mosul, marking the end of 1,800 years of continuous Christian presence. A church mass was not held in Mosul for the first time in 1,800 years.
ISIL has already set similar rules for Christians living in other cities and towns, including its de facto capital Raqqa. However, on 29 March 2016, ISIL issued a decree preventing Christians from leaving Raqqa.
By August 7, ISIL captured the primarily Assyrian towns of Qaraqosh, Tel Keppe, Bartella, and Karamlish, prompting the residents to flee. More than 100,000 Iraqi Christians were forced to flee their homes and leave all their property behind after ISIL invaded Qaraqosh and surrounding towns in the Nineveh Plains Province of Iraq.
In early November 2014, a "price list" for Yazidi and Christian females surfaced online. While a human rights NGO Defend International immediately verified the document's authenticity, UN official Zainab Bangura didn't confirm it to be genuine until August 2015.
On February 12, 2015, the ISIL released a report in their online magazine Dabiq showing photos of 21 Egyptian Copts migrant workers that they had kidnapped in the city of Sirte, Libya, and whom they threatened to kill to "avenge the [alleged] kidnapping of Muslim women by the Egyptian Coptic Church". The men, who came from different villages in Egypt, 13 of them from Al-Our, Minya Governorate, were kidnapped in Sirte in two separate attacks on December 27, 2014, and in January 2015.
On 23 February 2015, in response to a major Kurdish offensive in the Al-Hasakah Governorate, ISIL abducted 150 Assyrians from villages near Tell Tamer in northeastern Syria, after launching a large offensive in the region.
According to US diplomat Alberto M. Fernandez, of the 232 of the Assyrians kidnapped in the ISIL attack on the Assyrian Christian farming villages on the banks of the Khabur River in Northeast Syria, 51 were children and 84 were women. "Most of them remain in captivity, with one account claiming that ISIS is demanding $22 million (or roughly $100,000 per person) for their release."
On 8 October 2015, ISIL released a video showing three of the Assyrian men kidnapped in Khabur being executed. It was reported that 202 of the 253 kidnapped Assyrians were still in captivity, each one with a demanded ransom of $100,000.
On 2 and 3 August 2014, thousands of Assyrians of the diaspora protested the persecution of their fellow Assyrians within Iraq and Syria, demanding a United Nations-led creation of a safe haven for minorities in the Nineveh plains.
In October 2014, Kurdish-Danish human rights activist Widad Akrawi dedicated her 2014 International Pfeffer Peace Award "to all victims of persecution, particularly the Yazidis, the Christians, and all residents of the Kobanê region." Chaldean Catholic Father Douglas Al-Bazi has spoken out strongly against the genocide.
In December 2015, at a Townhall event, the 67th United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called the systematic persecution a genocide.
In February 2016, Lars Adaktusson, a Swedish member of the European Parliament from the EPP Group, said of the unanimous vote to recognize atrocities as genocide: "It gives the victims of the atrocities a chance to get their human dignity restored. It's also a historical confirmation that the European Parliament recognized what is going on and that they are suffering from the most despicable crime in the world, namely genocide."
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At least a thousand Christians have been killed. Hundreds of thousands have fled.
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The European Parliament characterized the persecution as "genocide" Thursday.
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It said that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whom the group has now named Caliph Ibrahim, had set a Saturday deadline for Christians who did not want to stay and live under those terms to "leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate". "After this date, there is nothing between us and them but the sword," it said.
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"I'm sure now we have enough evidence that what is happening is genocide, deliberately aimed at destroying, not only the lives but wiping out the existence of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS," she said.