ERBIL — As the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces continue advancing into Mosul in northern Iraq and recapture more territories from Islamic State (IS) militants, more civilians risk their lives to escape their areas that have now turned to a battlefield.
Among the new influx of Mosul IDPs, a Christian family spoke to Kurdistan24 after arriving in safety in Kurdistan Region, recalling the horrible days they passed under the rule of the extremist group in their hometown, Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq where has been under the control of the jihadists since June 2014.
Ismail and his mother said they were subjected to regular humiliations, imprisonment and torture even though they accepted to convert and attended religious ceremonies arranged by IS militants. “I was praying in front of the people as Muslims do, then I was praying in secret as a Christian, asking God to forgive me because I was forced to convert,” Jandrak, Ismail’s mother, said in an interview with Kurdistan24.
During the past two years, Ismail said, he was sent behind the bars seven times, and he was several times forced to look at her mother being tortured by the militants.
“Anyone who fails to attend Friday’s [collective] prayers three weeks in a row, will be beheaded by Daesh [IS militants]; 25 lashes is the punishment for those failing to pray seven successive days,” Ismail recalled.
“They pointed a gun to my head and forced me to convert, then put me in prison where they executed a Shi’ite [Muslim] next to me, threatening that I will face the same fate if I refuse conversion.”
Since the fall of Mosul into the hands of IS more than two years ago, over 150,000 Christians have been displaced from home and found refuge in Kurdistan Region, mainly in Duhok and Erbil provinces. They are now safe under the protection of Kurdish Peshmerga forces and able to practice their religion freely among Kurds, who have a long history of peaceful coexistence and tolerance.
Earlier this week after the liberation of the divers town of Bashiq in northeast of Mosul, the Peshmerga forces renovated and re-installed the the cross, ringed the bell of Bashiq church for the first time in more than two years. This symbolic act was to deliver a message to the followers of Christianity, Yezidi and other religion, that is they are safe under the rule of Kurds, and free to practice their religion.
Ismail and his mother, Jandrak; now living in Kurdistan Region (Photo: Kurdistan24)