Jul 25 2014
By Ali Latif
Azzaman, July 25, 2014
Militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) have mounted several attacks on a string of Christian villages in the vicinity of the city of Mosul, which they invaded last month.
Mosul is almost empty of its Christians following a decree by ISIS that they must either pay a tax, convert to Islam or be killed.
About 600 Christian families have fled to the Kurdish region with ISIS militants reported to be turning churches into mosques and even destroying revered Muslim Sunni Shrines and places of worship belonging to non-Muslim communities.
ISIS’s apparent target are three mainly Christian villages – Qaraqoush, Bartilla and Telkeif – all lying within Mosul outskirts.
Iraqis, particularly non-Muslim Sunnis, fear ISIS and have been fleeing in droves even on rumors that the militants were nearby.
There was a second large-scale exodus of Christians from villages to the north of Mosul when clashes erupted between Kurdish militias – peshmerqa – and the militants who wanted to occupy a major pharmaceutical company in Mosul suburbs.
Eventually, ISIS control the company but Kurdish militias have so far held positions.
The Kurds moved their militias into all the so-called ‘disputed territory’ which includes towns and villages where Iraqi minorities like Christians, Shebeks, Turkmen and Yazidis have lived.
Terrified inhabitants are reported to have fled many of these villages, though Kurdish forces are trying to persuade them to return, saying they are in control.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced only in northern Iraq, mainly on sectarian, ethnic and religious grounds.
The invasion by ISIS has resulted in a massive movement of people in Iraq, with Shiites in the mainly Sunni-dominated north and east heading south and Sunnis in the predominantly Shiite south fleeing to ISIS-controlled areas.