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Persecution of Assyrians and Copts by ISIL
Location Iraq, Syria, Libya
Date June 11, 2014 (2014-06-11) – present
Target Assyrians and Copts
Attack type
Ethnic cleansing, abuse, and forced conversions to Islam
Deaths Tens[1]
Victims 200,000 Assyrian refugees[1]
Assailants  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Defenders None reported


The Persecution of Assyrians and Copts by ISIL refers to the persecution[2][3][4] 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 climax following its takeover of parts of Northern Iraq in June 2014.[5]

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."[6]

Background[edit | edit source]

The mass flight and expulsion of ethnic Assyrians from Iraq is a process which initiated from the beginning of 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 both Sunni and Shiite insurgent groups and militias have threatened Assyrian Christians.[7] 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.[8]

Timeline[edit | edit source]

Fall of Mosul[edit | edit source]

After the fall of Mosul, ISIS demanded Assyrian Christians in the city to convert to Islam, pay tribute, or face execution, by July 19, 2014.[9] This resulted in a complete Assyrian Christian exodus from Mosul, marking the end of 1600 years of continuous Christian presence.[10] A church mass was not held in Mosul for the first time in 1,800 years.[11] ISIS had also been seen marking Christian homes with the letter nūn for Nassarah ("Christian").[12][13] Several religious buildings were seized and subsequently demolished, most notably Mar Behnam Monastery.[14]

Fall of the Nineveh Plain[edit | edit source]

By August 7, ISIS captured the primarily Assyrian towns of Qaraqosh, Tel Keppe, Bartella, and Karamlish, prompting the residents to flee.[15][16] More than 100,000 Iraqi Christians were forced to flee their homes and leave all their property behind after ISIS invaded Qaraqosh and surrounding towns in the Nineveh Plains Province of Iraq.[17]

Beheading of Copts[edit | edit source]

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".[18] The men, who came from different villages in Egypt, 13 of them from Al-Our, Minya Governorate,[19] were kidnapped in Sirte in two separate attacks on December 27, 2014, and in January 2015.[20]

Khabur offensive[edit | edit source]

On 23 February 2015, in response to a major Kurdish offensive in the Al-Hasakah Governorate, ISIL abducted 150 Assyrians from villages near near Tell Tamer in northeastern Syria, after launching a large offensive in the region.[21][22]

According to US diplomat Alberto M. Fernandez, of the 232 of the Assyrians kidnapped in the ISIS attack on the Assyrian Christian farming villages on the banks of the Khabur River in Northeast Syria, 51 were children and 84 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."[6]

Reactions[edit | edit source]

On 2 and 3 August 2014, thousands of Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs 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.[23][24]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Increasing Calls for Military Intervention to Save Assyrians and Yazidis". Aina.org. http://www.aina.org/releases/20140815163513.htm. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  2. Rodriguez, Meredith (August 8, 2014). "Chicago-area Assyrians march against ISIS, others protest airstrikes". Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20140809003132/http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-chicagoarea-assyrians-march-against-isis-others-protest-airstrikes-20140808-story.html. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  3. Bowcott, Owen; Jones, Sam (August 8, 2014). "Isis persecution of Iraqi Christians has become genocide, says religious leaders". Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20140809003137/http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/08/isis-persecution-iraqi-christians-genocide-asylum. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  4. McQuade, Romsin (July 30, 2014). "Iraq’s persecuted Assyrian Christians are in limbo". Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20140809003145/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/11000168/Iraqs-persecuted-Assyrian-Christians-are-in-limbo.html. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  5. Levs, Josh (August 7, 2014). "Will anyone stop ISIS?". Archived from the original on August 7, 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20140807191105/http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/07/world/meast/stopping-isis. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Fernandez, Alberto M. (June 16, 2015). "The "Sayfo" Continues Responding to Global Christian Persecution". Georgetown University Religious Freedom Project. http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/cornerstone/global-christian-persecution/responses/the-sayfo-continues. Retrieved 20 June 2015. 
  7. "Population 'under attack', Radio Free Europe". Rferl.org. http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/05/A453003E-DEC4-491A-9069-81255C27A7FA.html2006. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  8. "BBC News - Iraq Christians flee as Islamic State takes Qaraqosh". BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28686998. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  9. "BBC News - Iraqi Christians flee after Isis issue Mosul ultimatum". BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28381455. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  10. "For the first time in 1600 years, no Masses said in Mosul". Catholicworldreport.com. http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/3221/for_the_first_time_in_a_1600_years_no_masses_said_in_mosul.aspx. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  11. "Iraqi Christian church burnings confirmed by EU delegation". Iraq news, the latest Iraq news. http://www.iraqinews.com/baghdad-politics/iraqi-christian-church-burnings-confirmed-eu-delegation/. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  12. "Iraqi Christians flee after Isis issue Mosul ultimatum". August 7, 2014. Archived from the original on August 7, 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20140724045752/http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28381455. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  13. Loveluck, Louisa (August 7, 2014). "Christians flee Iraq's Mosul after Islamists tell them: convert, pay or die". Archived from the original on August 7, 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20140730003543/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10977698/Christians-flee-Iraqs-Mosul-after-Islamists-tell-them-convert-pay-or-die.html. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  14. "Isis militants 'seize Iraq monastery and expel monks'". August 7, 2014. Archived from the original on August 7, 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20140724155949/http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28408926. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  15. "UN Security Council condemns attacks by Iraqi jihadists". August 7, 2014. Archived from the original on August 7, 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20140808001143/http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28699832. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  16. "ISIS Captures Largest Christian Town In Iraq And Several Others, Thousands Of Minorities Flee". International Business Times. http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-captures-largest-christian-town-iraq-several-others-thousands-minorities-flee-1651618. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  17. "BBC News - Iraq Christians flee as Islamic State takes Qaraqosh". BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28686998. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  18. El-Gundy, Zeinab (12 February 2015). "Islamic State publishes report on Coptic Egyptian workers kidnapped in Libya". Al-Ahram. http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/122903/Egypt/Politics-/Islamic-State-publishes-report-on-Coptic-Egyptian-.aspx. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  19. "Thousands mourn Egyptian victims of Islamic State in disbelief". Reuters. 16 Feb 2015. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/02/16/uk-mideast-crisis-egypt-village-idUKKBN0LK1L420150216. Retrieved 26 Feb 2015. 
  20. "ISIL video shows Christian Egyptians beheaded in Libya". Al Jazeera. 16 Feb 2015. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2015/02/isil-video-execution-egyptian-christian-hostages-libya-150215193050277.html. Retrieved 16 Feb 2015. 
  21. Tom Heneghan, ed (23 February 2015). "Islamic State in Syria abducts at least 150 Christians". Reuters. http://www.reutecom/article/2015rs./02/24/us-mideast-crisis-christians-idUSKBN0LS0MH20150224. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  22. "Islamic State 'abducts dozens of Christians in Syria'". BBC. 23 February 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31601451. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  23. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/assyrian-christians-protest-in-sydney-city-against-silent-genocide-taking-place-in-iraq-and-syria/story-fni0cx12-1227011070149?nk=c2dc639b829591b95df8725e7e2d2564
  24. "Assyrians Demonstrate Worldwide Against ISIS Persecution". Aina.org. http://www.aina.org/news/20140802155939.htm. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 

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