Iraqi Christians are reportedly being tortured in local churches by the Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Iraq. A Christian resident from the ISIS-held city of Mosul, told the Sunday Times: “These two churches are being used as prisons and for torture.
IB Times Three of the Christian prisoners died because they were sick and nobody cared for them.” The man, known as Abu Aasi, claims that Christian prisoners in the churches are being forced to convert and that Islamic State have been “breaking all the crosses and statues of Mary”.
— Amir Taki (@AmirTaki) August 15, 2014
Thousands of Christians have fled Mosul since the city was seized by Islamic State in August 2014, leaving the city nearly devoid of Christians for the first time in more than 2,000 years.
Faced with the prospect of conversion, paying a special tax or execution, up to 20,000 Christians reportedly fled Mosul in just 45 days, according to a UN report. Islamic State’s determination to impose its radical interpretation of Shariah law has left many local civilians living in fear.
Photos have been released by Islamic State showing the harsh measures being imposed by the extremist group. Images show three men being whipped for drinking wine in Iraq. According to the local Islamic State media branch, the punishment took place in the Iraqi province of Kirkuk.
The photos show a large crowd of men, including a number of young boys, stand in a circle watching the punishment. Several of the crowd are holding the black flag of Islamic State whilst a number of Islamic State fighters stand guard.
Kneeling on a large green patterned carpet, the three men are shown with their hands unbound, resting on their laps. All three of the men appear to be in their late 40s and can be seen staring down at the ground.
A masked Islamic State fighter, wearing all black clothes is pictured whipping each man a number of times. The whip appears to be about half an arm’s length in size and made of leather. Secured with black tape, the tails of the whip are shown connecting sharply with the covered skin of each man.
Photos have also emerged of a man accused of adultery, being whipped in the Syrian town of Manbij. The photos shows a bearded Islamic State fighter, reading out the crimes of the accused over a microphone. The man is shown with his robe pulled over his head to reveal his back. Leaning against a pickup truck, the man is whipped by an Islamic State fighter.
Like the photos of the three men in Kirkuk being whipped for drinking wine, the final photo shows the adulterer embracing Islamic State fighter who read out his crimes.
IB Times Canon Andrew White, the vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, has warned Christians in the country that the end of the religion in the country appears “very near”.
Christians in Iraq must convert, pay a tax or be killed, members of the Iraq State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) have said.
The majority of Christian people in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul fled when the announcement was made by the militant group last week. But Canon White has said they are trapped in the desert or on the streets with nowhere to go, and appealed for more help to counter the threat from Islamist militants.
“Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off.
“Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”
The vicar is in London this weekend to speak about the crisis and raise awareness of the need to provide more help to the persecuted minority. “The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go,” he said.
As many as one million Christians had been living in Iraq prior to the US-led invasion in 2003; the majority in areas like Mosul where the communities date back to the first centuries of Christianity. There are now thought to be much fewer than half that number. (See Below)