By Louisa Loveluck
….Islamic State fighters robbed departing Christians of their belongings, he said, leaving them to face destitution in grim camps for the displaced. Deprived of their cars and cash, many Christians were forced to walk to safety.
The jihadists had previously insisted that Iraq’s minorities had little to fear from their invasion, using social media to assure the wider world that they had no quarrel with Christians who observe their rules.
Islamic State first rose to prominence in Syria’s interminable civil war, growing from an extremist fringe group to the strongest, best funded and best armed militia in modern history.
The group says it aims to return the lands they conquer to a state approximating that of early Islam, in which Jews and Christians who did not convert had to pay a “jizya” tribute to their Muslim rulers.
The concept dates back to the early Islamic era in the seventh century, but was largely abolished during the Ottoman reforms of the mid-19th century.
Mosul’s Christian community, one of the oldest in the world, has shrunk rapidly in the years since US-led forces pushed Saddam Hussein from power. Before 2003 the city’s Christians numbered some 60,000 people, but that dropped to some 35,000 by June this year, Mr Sako told AFP.
He said another 10,000 fled Mosul after the militant-led offensive began sweeping across Iraq on June 9.
But many had held on, hoping to reach some sort of accommodation.
Others said they were willing to fight. On a visit to the Christian settlement of Bartella, ten miles from Mosul, in mid-June, the Telegraph found a community mounting what it perceived as a last stand against the advancing militants.
Islamic State’s ultimatum seemed to put paid to any hopes of co-existence or resistance.
Since the insurgents arrived in Mosul, even if their forces of occupation are largely local Baathist remnants, they have posted rules for the implementation of their strict Sharia.
These demand that women should be covered and only go outside “if necessary”. Drugs, alcohol and cigarettes are banned, and all shrines, monuments and graveyards – seen as idolatrous in Salafi forms of Sunni Islam – will be destroyed.
On Friday, the United Nations accused Islamic State fighters in Iraq of a range of atrocities that it said could amount to war crimes.
At least 5,576 Iraqi civilians have been killed this year in violence, the UN said in a report that provides the most detailed account yet of the impact of unrest culminating in advances by Sunni rebels led by Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, across the north.
“Every day we receive accounts of a terrible litany of human rights violations being committed in Iraq against ordinary Iraqi children, women and men, who have been deprived of their security, their livelihoods, their homes, education, healthcare and other basic services,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said….
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