As of Tuesday evening, the last remaining Iraqi Christians in Mosul have fled the city in the face of ISIS threats. The Islamic State Group's ultimatum was chillingly simple: Christians could convert to Islam, pay a tax, or give up their possessions and flee the city.
ISIS blankly told Mosul’s Christian population that if they did not pick one of these options by July 19, they would face the death penalty.
Most of those fleeing ISIS headed to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq or other areas protected by the Kurdish security forces.
Before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, Iraq was home to an estimated 1 million Christians.
Since then, however, militants have been known to frequently target Christians around the country, forcing so many of them to flee that church officials now believe the Iraqi Christian population may be about 450,000.
Many of the Christians who had remained in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, fled when ISIS and other Sunni militants captured it on June 10.
On Thursday, ISIS announced their final threat to Christians over loudspeakers and in leaflets passed out in the streets.
Sahir Yahya, a Christian and government employee from Mosul, said that the Islamic State people “were nice to us at first, and they used to knock our door and tell us that they mean no harm to the Christians in Mosul, and they even gave us a mobile number just in case we are offended by anybody.”
“This changed two days ago,” continued Yahya, who, along with her husband and two sons, fled the city last Friday morning. “The Islamic State people revealed their true savage nature and intention.”
ISIS has vowed to continue its offensive on to Baghdad, where police officials said that, on Saturday, a series of bombings killed at least 27 people.
Nickolay Mladenov, the head of the UN assistance mission in Iraq, condemned the extremist group’s order.
“Any persecution of minorities constitutes a crime against humanity, and we urge all sides to protect civilians,” Mladenov said. “We have produced a report listing attacks on civilians and have brought this up at the highest levels of the Iraqi government.”