Human Rights

UN chief decries Islamic State's ultimatum

Ultimatum for Mosul's Christians to "convert, pay tax, leave or face execution" leads to exodus of community.

Last updated: 21 Jul 2014 17:31
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Before the 2003 US invasion, more than one million Christians lived in Iraq. [Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images]

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has condemned the persecution of Iraqi Christians by Islamic State (IS) fighters, saying it may constitute a crime against humanity.

The statement on Monday came after hundreds of Christian families fled their homes in the northern city of Mosul as an ultimatum threatening their community's centuries-old presence ended.

The fighters, who have run the city after a military offensive that began six weeks ago, had issued a written declaration to Mosul's Christian community to either convert, pay a tax, leave or face imminent execution.

Mosul's new rulers said there would be "nothing for them but the sword" if Christians did not abide by those conditions by Saturday.

Check out our complete coverage of the crisis in Iraq

The Sunni-led Islamic State group issued the the ultimatum in a letter after Friday prayers.

The Islamic State document, obtained by Al Jazeera, states that the order was issued after Christian leaders failed to attend a meeting called by the group.

In response, the group says in the letter that Christians must either convert to Islam, pay a tax on non-Muslims known as "jiziya", or give up their posessions and leave the city.

Failure to do so would result in a death penalty, "as a last resort".

While some families initially appeared prepared to pay the Islamic tribute to stay in their homes, messages broadcast by mosques on Friday sparked an exodus.

Ban has stressed that "any systematic attack on the civilian population, or segments of the civilian population, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity", adding that he was "particularly disturbed by reports of threats against Christians in Mosul and other IS-controlled parts of Iraq".

Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, was overrun by the Islamic State and allied rebel groups last month.

Prior to the 2003 US invasion, more than a million Christians lived in Iraq, including more than 600,000 in Baghdad and 60,000 in Mosul, as well as a substantial number in the oil city of Kirkuk and in Basra.

Until their forced exodus over the weekend, Christians had been continuously present in Mosul for approximately 16 centuries.


Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
More than 400 gaming dens operate on native lands, but critics say social ills and inequality stack the deck.
The Palestinian president is expected to address the UN with a new proposal for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Nearly 1,200 aboriginal females have been killed or disappeared over 30 years with little justice served, critics say.
Ethnic violence has wracked China's restive Xinjiang region, leading to a tight government clampdown.
Malay artists revitalise the art of puppeteering by fusing tradition with modern characters such as Darth Vader.