An Iraqi Christian Mikha Qasha, fleeing from Qaraqosh, has given a personal account of members of the Islamic State, IS, coming to his house and threatening him to leave, convert to Islam or face the sword.
Qasha told Mid-East Christian News, specializing in Christian minorities in the Middle East, that IS members gave him a week to think about it; the threat came with weapons pointed at his head.
Elderly and paralyzed, Qasha, was taken away from Qaraqosh by a friend -in his wheelchair. Eventually he found his grandson, who took him to the predominantly Christian suburb of Ankawa in the province of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region.
According to MCN Direct, others who fled from a district in Nineveh, and from Qaraqosh and Bartella, said IS is now imposing a conversion deadline of one week for any non-Muslim. Qasha’s neighbour, a young man who fled the city this week, said he was hiding in his home with his father when IS members found them on August 17. They gave them a week, until August 24, to convert to Islam or be killed.
70,000 Christians have arrived in Ankawa, the Christian neighbourhood in Erbil and some 60,000 displaced people are in Dohuk, said Louis Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq.
Dohuk, mainly inhabited by Kurds and Assyrians, is in the north in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan while Qaraqosh, a town of about 50,000 people in Nineveh Province, sits between Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, to the east.
The Islamic State took over Mosul in June. At the time there were 3,500 residing Christians who fled east to Qaraqosh, which is often referred to as the Christian capital of Iraq. Of the 3,500 about 25 people decided to stay home in Mosul. Since then nine have converted to Islam, while the others are paying jizya – the Islamic tax for non-Muslims.
The UN has launched a major aid operation: UNHCR said tents and other goods will be sent to Erbil via air, land and sea beginning Wednesday, August 20.
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