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Islamic Jizya: ‘Protection’ From Whom?

By , July 31, 2014 3:28 am

Is jizya–the money non-Muslims historically paid their Muslim conquerors–meant to buy them “protection,” including from outside enemies, as modern Western academics maintain? Or was it simply extortion money meant to buy non-Muslims their lives, as Islam’s scriptures mandate?

The word jizya appears in Koran 9:29: “Fight those among the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, nor forbid what Allah and his Messenger have forbidden, nor embrace the religion of truth, until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (emphasis added).”

In the hadith, the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad, regularly calls on Muslims to demand jizya of non-Muslims: “If they refuse to accept Islam,” said the Islamic prophet, “demand from them the jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay jizya, seek Allah’s help and fight them.”

Keeping the above in mind, consider the following July 18 report from Reuters:

Islamist insurgents have issued an ultimatum to northern Iraq’s dwindling Christian population to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death, according to a statement distributed in the militant-controlled city of Mosul….

It said Christians who wanted to remain in the “caliphate” that the Islamic State declared this month in parts of Iraq and Syria must agree to abide by terms of a “dhimma” contract–a historic practice under which non-Muslims were protected in Muslim lands in return for a special levy known as “jizya.”

“We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract — involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the announcement said.

“After this date [July 19], there is nothing between us and them but the sword,” it said.

The Nineveh decree echoes one that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the former name for the Islamic State, issued in the Syrian city of Raqqa in February, demanding that Christians pay the jizya levy in gold and curb displays of their faith in return for protection.

Note how straightforward the Islamic State’s words are–jizya, conversion, or death–compared to the language of Reuters, which twice invokes the concept of “protection” without explaining from whom: 1) “a historic practice under which non-Muslims were protected in Muslim lands in return for a special levy known as “jizya”; 2) “demanding that Christians pay the jizya levy in gold and curb displays of their faith in return for protection.”

Reuters doesn’t bother to clarify this notion of “protection,” but rather leaves it vague, implying that the protection Christians receive is against some random elements.

The reason for this obfuscation is that Mideast academics in the West have been whitewashing the meaning of jizya for decades. After all, the concept of jizya is one of the most ironclad proofs that Islam is innately intolerant of non-Muslims.

A very typical Western definition for jizya can be found in the Encyclopaedia Britannica: “The Muslim rulers tolerated the dhimmis [conquered non-Muslims] and allowed them to practice their religion. In return for protection [from whom?] and as a mark of their submission, the dhimmis were required to pay a special poll tax known as the jizya.”

Other academics have gone so far as to claim that non-Muslims paid jizya to buy Muslim protection against outside forces. Consider the following excerpt from John Esposito, director of the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. It essentially makes the idea of being subjugated to Islamic overlords and paying them tribute appear as an enviable position for non-Muslim minorities:

In many ways, local populations [Christians, Jews, and others] found Muslim rule more flexible and tolerant than that of Byzantium and Persia. Religious communities were free to practice their faith to worship and be governed by their religious leaders and laws in such areas as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. In exchange, they were required to pay tribute, a poll tax (jizya) that entitled them to Muslim protection from outside aggression and exempted them from military service. Thus, they were called the “protected ones” (dhimmi). In effect, this often meant lower taxes, greater local autonomy (emphasis added) …

The idea that jizya was extracted in order to buy “Muslim protection from outside aggression” is an outright lie–one that, as the equivocal tone of the aforementioned Reuters report indicates, has taken root in the West.

Equally false is Esposito’s assertion that jizya was paid to “exempt them from military service”–as if conquering Muslims would even want or allow their despised “infidel” subjects to fight alongside them in the name of jihad without first converting to Islam.

The root meaning of the Arabic word “jizya” is simply to “repay” or “recompense,” basically to “compensate” for something. According to the Hans Wehr Dictionary, the standard Arabic-English dictionary, jizya is something that “takes the place” of something else, or “serves instead.”

Simply put, conquered non-Muslims were to purchase their lives, which were otherwise forfeit to their Muslim conquerors, with money. Instead of taking their lives, they took their money. As one medieval jurist succinctly puts it, “their lives and their possessions are only protected by reason of payment of jizya” (Crucified Again, p. 22).

So jizya was, and is indeed, protection money–though protection, not from outsiders, as Esposito and others claim, but from surrounding Muslims themselves. Whether it’s the first caliphate from over a millennium ago or whether it’s the newest caliphate, the Islamic State, Muslim overlords continue to deem the lives of their non-Muslim subjects forfeit unless they purchase it, ransom it with money.

There is nothing humane, reasonable, or admirable about demands for jizya from conquered non-Muslim minorities, as the academics claim. Jizya is simply extortion money. Its purpose has always been to provide non-Muslims with protection from Muslims: pay up, or else become one of us and convert to Islam, or else die.

And it is commanded in both the Koran and Hadith, the twin pillars of Islam.

In short, jizya is an ugly fact of Islam–one that, distort as they may, the academics can’t whitewash away, even as the world stands idly by watching its resumption in the twenty-first century.

Assyrian International News Agency

Who Will Put an End to the Christian Killing Fields?

By , July 30, 2014 9:46 pm

Iraqi Christians pray during Sunday Mass at the Church of Virgin Mary in Baghdad, Sunday, July 27, 2014 (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban).”Please, the world needs to know: We are captives, we don’t have water or electricity here in Aleppo but it is nothing compared to the fear we have toward the Islamists. Why is no one doing anything to save us?”

A young Assyrian Christian woman in Aleppo, Syria, spoke these words to me during a phone call a few days ago. She is stuck in the country with her three small children.

In wake of the ISIS invasion of Iraq, reports (long overdue) are emerging about the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the country. Yet ISIS is committing the same atrocities against non-Muslims in Syria, too.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has been emptied of almost all Christians. Ten days ago, ISIS — who now call themselves the Islamic State (IS) — distributed fliers to Christians that read: “Convert, Pay Jizya, Leave or Die.”

The Christians fled in droves before the Saturday deadline for their decision.

The scant few who remained were weak, old or injured and could not flee. A man who lost his leg in a bombing a couple of days prior to the deadline was forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint, according to his relatives.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, also has been nearly emptied of Assyrians, Armenians and other non-Muslims.

These are the words spoken to me by the father of the three children stuck with their mother in another phone call: “It’s happening right in front of their eyes and no one is lifting a finger to stop it. Please be our voice, we beg you — make them do something to save us from being slaughtered.”

The husband has fled to Sweden. He had a plan of bringing his family later. But for now, he has left them behind, and they are in severe danger.

After our conversation, I thought at first, what kind of man is he to leave his family behind? Then I realized I’ve interviewed thousands of refugees who have been similarly deserted in countries like China, Thailand, Chad, or have had friends and family who have drowned in their attempts to flee. Maybe this young man was threatened by the Jihadists and decided to flee rather than risk his entire family’s life.

And who I am to judge him, while I’m enjoying the freedom and safety of Sweden, where I myself arrived as an 8-year-old?

Then I reminded myself of this: I have been trusted to be the voice of some of these people; the unheard minorities of this world, who are being persecuted, slaughtered and forcibly removed from their birthplaces. That is the task I have somehow been given, and I take that responsibility very seriously. Someone has to do it.

Right now in Syria and Iraq, girls are being kidnapped, raped and killed. Young men have been beheaded in front of cameras because of their faith. For a decade now I have been watching these gruesome video clips that find their way to me. This is the kind of footage that will never leave you. Nor will the desperate voices of the victims.

So I must continue speaking out for Mary, a young woman in her mid-20s, who was dragged out of her house in Southeast Syria for being an Assyrian activist. She was pushed to the ground in the middle of the street and shot in the head. Then the terrorists shouted that they would murder the entire family of anyone attempting to touch the corpse. The same night dogs started to eat her body.

And I will continue talking about the Assyrian and Armenian girls who are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam and marry Jihadists, as one Iraqi and Syrian city after another is being emptied of Christians.

Before Syria’s civil war broke out, more than 200 Assyrian families and 1,000 individuals lived in Tabqa, a city in northern Syria. Nearly all of them have left the country; some of them are stranded all over the world, abandoned by cynical smugglers who failed to get them to Europe. Only three Assyrian families had remained in Tabqa. The rebels told them that they would not be harmed. The remaining Assyrians were poor and were trying to maintain what little they had.

One of them was 26-year-old Ninar Odisho. Ninar was brutally murdered by the terrorists. The reason he was killed could be found on his body. The Jihadists had burned a cross into his face. Every day I get reports of atrocities. Our nation, our Christian legacy and our way of life are being eradicated. Assassinated.

The prideful tone in which the perpetrators speak whenever I have interviewed them –both Al Qaeda and IS —- is equally shocking. These are mostly disgruntled young men who were teetering on the edges of society in their own homelands, often in European suburbs, and now believe they have the power to do whatever they want in the name of Islam. They can claim any house in IS-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria as their own, and tell the owners to either leave or risk being killed. They can take any woman as their wife.

Why? Because no one is stopping them.

At least 700, 000 non-Muslims — Christians, Mandeans, Yezidis and others — have left Iraq by now. No one knows how many have left Syria.

IS is also persecuting Muslims. They have killed Sunni Mullahs in Mosul to show that they do not tolerate any interpretation of the Koran other than their own hijacked and distorted version, and that they will accept no religious authority other than their own homemade version.

In other words, everyone other than them is a target: especially the more immediate rivals to their religious and communal authority, other Muslim sects such as the Shia and the Alawites.

They will cut off your tongue if they don’t like what you say, and sever your fingers if they catch you smoking. According to sources in Mosul yesterday, a man was brutally attacked and tortured because he was wearing jeans, which to the IS is tantamount to wearing an U.S. Army uniform.

So, what is the rest of the world doing about this?

Well, world leaders are funding the opposition in Syria, including many of the same extremist groups that they claim America will combat in Iraq by supporting the Iraqi government.

I am struggling to make any moral or human sense of it all.

And here’s a good question: Why is the most powerful country in the world silent as Christianity is wrenched of its roots?

As for me, I came to a point where I have concluded it’s not enough to bear witness anymore.

On June 19 of this year, a young Assyrian who was forcibly deported from Sweden back to Iraq called me from a basement in Mosul. He was whispering. He told me to listen to the surrounding noise: men screaming “Taqbir!” and “Allah u Akbar!” It was ISIS invading his city.

The next morning I went on Facebook and Twitter and asked my friends for help. I started a worldwide campaign. It is called A Demand For Action. We have sent e-mails to politicians, NGOs and media outlets all over the world. We will not stop making the voices of the victims in Iraq and Syria heard until they receive a permanent solution.

In the Nineveh Plains, just south of Iraqi Kurdistan, Assyrians and other minorities constitute the demographic majority and are currently very vulnerable. We need a safe haven, if Christianity and its followers are not to be eradicated from their place of origin for good.

Last week, yet another village in Iraq was attacked by IS. The Christians of the Middle East have faced many massacres over the past century. We are now facing the prospect of a new genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria.

American and other nations’ leaders must show their support and act now.

Nuri Kino is a Swedish-Assyrian freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is co-author of the political thriller, “The Line in the Sand.”

Assyrian International News Agency

Only America Can Save Iraq’s Last Christians

By , July 30, 2014 4:04 pm

The Arabic “nun” symbol, or N, which stands for Nazarene and refers to Christians, ominously began appearing, stamped in red, on Christian homes in Mosul, Iraq, two weeks ago.

By mid-July, it was accompanied by another statement, painted in black, “Property of the Islamic State.” And with that, the Christians found their worst fears confirmed.

On July 19, ISIS, the Sunni Muslim insurgent group declaring itself the Islamic State, carried out unabated and unabashed religious cleansing against Christians and the non-Sunni Muslim communities. Today, in this place of Nineveh of the Bible, the ancient heart of Iraqi Christianity, there’s not a single Christian left. All have been stripped of their possessions and deported.

In recent years, Iraq’s Christians have experienced relentless persecution by various extremist groups, and, along with a civil conflict in which the Christians remain neutral, it has taken a hard toll on their numbers. In 2003, Iraq’s Christians, at 1.4 million, were among the region’s most robust Christian communities. Since then, more than a million of them have fled. Their banishment from Mosul is irreversible.

Whether these newly displaced people, among the last Christians to speak Aramaic, Jesus’ own language, will be able to remain in the region at all is likely to depend on America’s response.

Remarkably, after their mass deportation, the Iraqi government did nothing to help Mosul’s Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, even while the Iraqi Army failed to protect them, allowing ISIS to handily capture Iraq’s second largest city on June 10. Baghdad, however, did manage to send planes and bus convoys to evacuate the Shiites among the exiled minorities. Iraq’s government facilitated the resettlement of Mosul’s Turkmen and Shabak Shiite communities in Najaf and elsewhere in the south, reported Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana with the Christian Aid Program. (ISIS did not target Turkmen and Shabak Sunnis.)

Left to fend for themselves were the Christians and a few remaining Yezidis (a dozen Yezidis recently in their home province of Sinjar had their eyes gouged out and were then killed by ISIS for refusing to convert to Islam).

ISIS has set out to erase every Christian trace.

Following these events, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Sako registered the “shock and pain” of all Iraq’s church leaders, emphasizing their sense of raw “injustice.”

“How much the Christians have shared here in our East specifically from the beginnings of Islam. They shared every sweet and bitter circumstance of life … .Together they built a civilization, cities and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing,” the patriarch effectively eulogized.

The eradication of the 2,000-year-old Christian presence from Mosul is indeed shocking. The recent release of several kidnapped Orthodox nuns and orphans had given some hope that, influenced by local Sunnis, ISIS would eschew the barbarism that is its stock and trade in Syria.

One Mosul Muslim, law professor Mahmoud al Asali, did speak up for moderation, but was then murdered. A Baghdad gathering of Muslims wearing “I am a Christian” signs in solidarity was ignored. No such mercy was to be had.

Unless they converted to Islam or paid protection money, the Christians were told, they would get “nothing but the sword.” It was now clear, the 30,000 to 50,000 Christians who fled Mosul over the last decade wouldn’t be able to return, and the several hundred still remaining there this month needed to get out fast. (Iraqi Christian parliamentarian Younadam Kannan said at least five Christian families too sick to leave renounced their faith for Islam “to stay alive,” though one of their daughters did flee.)

Before casting out the Christians, Shiites and Yezidis, Caliph Ibrahim, as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi now is called, made certain to take all the possessions of the “unbelievers.”

Cars, cellphones, money, wedding rings, even one man’s chicken sandwich, were all solemnly declared “property of the Islamic State” and confiscated. A woman who gave over tens of thousands of dollars was also stripped of bus fare to Erbil.

With temperatures in the area reaching 120 degrees, the last of the exiles left on foot, carrying only the small children and pushing the grandparents in wheelchairs. Those who glanced back could see armed groups looting their homes and loading the booty onto trucks.

ISIS has set out to erase every Christian trace. All 30 churches were seized and their crosses stripped away. Some have been permanently turned into mosques. One is the Mar (Saint) Ephraim Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, newly outfitted with loudspeakers that now call Muslims to prayer. The 4th century Mar Behnam, a Syriac Catholic monastery outside Mosul, was captured and its monks expelled, leaving behind a library of early Christian manuscripts and wall inscriptions by 13th-century Mongol pilgrims.

Christian and Shiite gravesites, deemed idolatrous by ISIS, are being deliberately blown up and destroyed, including on July 24, the tomb of the 8th-century B.C. Old Testament Prophet Jonah, and the Muslim shrine that enclosed it.

Before fleeing, the Vatican reports, the Orthodox Christian community did successfully spirit away the relics of Thomas the Apostle who, it is said, introduced Christianity to Nineveh.

The last of Mosul’s Christians, those some 5,000 professors, doctors, lawyers, mechanics and their families that left between June 10 and July 19, find themselves suddenly destitute and homeless because of their faith. Some went to the nearest Nineveh Christian villages, temporarily sheltering in schools and churches. These villages would be vulnerable to ISIS attacks, too, but for their protection by the Kurds, who are, themselves, Sunni Muslim. Water and electricity have been cut off for some by ISIS, who told one Christian town official, “You don’t deserve to drink water,” reported Archdeacon Youkhana. The residents are desperately digging wells.

Many more have fled to Kurdistan, where there are ancestral Christian villages and big cities.

On July 19, the Kurdish Regional Government issued a statement welcoming the Christian exiles. It pledged the KRG to continue its “efforts and abilities to help those displaced” and called on the Kurdish people “to give all they can to aid the displaced Christian families.” It notes the Iraqi government “did not assume its responsibilities toward the displaced persons living in Kurdistan.”

ISIS control over Iraq’s territory presents an enormous threat to the region.

The religious cleansing of Mosul’s minorities is only part of the problem, but it is a grave crime against humanity, as well as a humanitarian catastrophe, that should no longer go overlooked in U.S. policy.

Nina Shea is director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (Thomas Nelson Publishers, March 2013).

Assyrian International News Agency

Lebenase Bishop: Muslims Enemies of Christ

By , July 30, 2014 10:22 am

BEIRUT — The Syriac Orthodox bishop of Mount Lebanon and Tripoli George Saliba Wednesday denounced Muslims as enemies of Jesus, accusing them of a history of violence and oppression against Christians.

“What is happening in Iraq is a strange thing, but it is normal for Muslims, because they have never treated Christians well, and they have always held an offensive and defaming stand against Christians,” reported Saliba as saying in a radio interview.

“We are not calling for armament and war; we don’t have the capacities,” Saliba said. “We used to live and coexist with Muslims, but then they revealed their canines [teeth].

“They are the enemies of Christ and they do not differ from the Jews in terms of treating Christians.”

The bishop accused Muslims of centuries of violence against Christians, condemning the attacks on the Christians of Iraqi Mosul.

“[They don't] have the right to storm houses, steal and attack the honor of Christians,” Saliba said. “Most Muslims do this, the Ottomans killed us and after that the ruling nation-states understood the circumstances but always gave advantage to the Muslims.”

Saliba also said Muslim generations are raised on bad feelings against Christians, saying this applies to the majority of Muslims.

“Islam has never changed, and Muslims have been educated on the bad treatment of Christians,” he said.

“We are not surprised by these behaviors, but we [put hopes] on some Muslims brothers who do not support such behaviors, despite them being a minority.”

According to Elnashra, the General Coordinator of the Islamic Work Front in Lebanon Sheikh Zouheir Al-Joaid responded to Saliba’s speech, condemning its content and accusing the bishop of hatred and ignorance.

“The bishop’s attack on Islam and Muslims tattles his bad and hateful background, and his ignorance about the religion that had supported Christians and their holy places for the long centuries of Islamic rule,” Joaid said Wednesday.

Joaid mentioned the major points of Saliba’s comments, stressing on the latter’s accusation that Muslims are the enemies of the Christ.

“These are defamation against Islam, its content and what the Quran said about our master Issa the Christ, peace be upon him.”

Joaid stressed that all moderate Muslim religious authorities and figures had condemned the fundamentalist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria’s behavior and actions.

“What the terrorist ISIS has done to Muslims is much greater than what they did to others,” he said.

Joaid finally called on Saliba to present an apology for the content of his speech or to deny any wrongly reported elements of it.

Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi, the Kataeb party’s deputy head, had made comments similarly controversial to Saliba’s Saturday, in a speech condemning the attacks on the Mosul Christians.

“We are not embarrassed to raise the voice and publicly say: We have tried all forms of common life, common state, region and village; what have we gained from all these experiences since 1400 years?” Azzi asked, referring to the beginning of Islam in the seventh century.

“What they couldn’t get in the era of conquests, they are trying to get it in the era of revolutions,” he added.

“We will not allow them to get it and we will safe-guard our honor and dignity and [protect] the free Christian existence.”

Assyrian International News Agency

ISIS in Syria Opens Bridal Office for Women Willing to Marry Sunni Insurgents

By , July 30, 2014 4:40 am

ISIS in Syria Opens Bridal Office for Women Willing to Marry Sunni Insurgents

By Ludovica Iaccino

Posted 2014-07-30 10:10 GMT

(photo: Reuters).Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) have opened an office in northern Syria for single women and widows who would like to marry insurgents.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the office in al-Bab, a town northeast of Aleppo city, records the names and addresses of potential wives. Isis insurgents consult the records and then go to the women’s houses and ask for their hands.

“[Isis] fighters will come knocking at their door and officially ask for marriage,” residents told the Observatory.

Isis — whose insurgence, started in June, sparked violence and instability in Iraq and Syria — also announced it would run a honeymoon service for the militants who get married.

The group said it would drive a bus from Raqa in Syria to Anbar, Iraq, twice a day so that newlywed couples can visit the areas recently conquered by the Sunni Islamists.

Isis became known worldwide after it stormed Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul in June, prompting thousands of civilians to flee.

The group now controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq, where it has established a caliphate, and warned it aims to take control of Baghdad.

Isis has been responsible for atrocities including mass kidnappings and executions of people who refused to observe sharia law.

The group sparked further outcry when it declared in July that adulterers will be stoned to death and families should force girls and women to undergo genital mutilation “to distance them from debauchery and immorality”.

Assyrian International News Agency

Archbishop of Lyon Visits North Iraq

By , July 29, 2014 10:58 pm

Archbishop of Lyon Visits North Iraq

Posted 2014-07-29 23:45 GMT

(AINA) — His Eminence The Cardinal Philip Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, France, visited Baghdede (Qaraqosh/Hamdaniya) on Tuesday and met with clergy and the refugees from Mosul. The Archbishop was accompanied by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, Bishop Michel Dubost, Bishop of Évry, Monsignor Pascal Gollnisch, Director of the Action of East (l’Œuvre d’Orient), Archbishop Joseph Thomas, head of the diocese of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah for the Chaldean Church and Archbishop Emil Nona, head of Mosul’s Chaldean Catholics. They were welcomed with heartfelt respect by head of the Mosul diocese, Syriac Catholic Mar Youhana Boutros Moshi.

After the welcoming ceremony the delegation went to the Church of the Immaculate Conception where the townspeople were waiting.

Archbishop Moshi thanked the visiting guests for their solidarity with the Christians in Iraq. He spoke of the recent conditions experienced by the people of the city and praised the people of Baghdede in receiving the refugees from Mosul, sheltering them in their homes and providing them with assistance.

Archbishop Barbarin emphasized in his speech the stand of the Church in Lyon with the Iraqis and the Christians and remembered his first visit to Iraq. He linked the diocese of Lyon with the Syriac Catholic diocese of Mosul and likened them as twins.

In his speech Patriarch Sako emphasized the firmness of the Christian presence Iraq, and that they are the indigenous people of Iraq.

In attendance was the head of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization who briefly met with the Archbishop.

Assyrian International News Agency

Lebanon’s Christians React to Crisis in Mosul

By , July 29, 2014 5:16 pm

Lebanon’s Christians React to Crisis in Mosul

By Jean Aziz

Posted 2014-07-29 23:49 GMT

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil looks on during a news conference in Beirut, May 29, 2014 (photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir).The tragedy that befell the Christian population in Mosul has raised concern in Lebanon, leading to a state of alert on the ecclesiastical and official levels and daily meetings on the matter. After the Islamic State (IS) threw out the Christian residents of Mosul, Lebanese ecclesiastical institutions and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs — which is led by Gebran Bassil, a Christian minister representing the largest Christian parliamentary bloc in Lebanon — have been in a state of frenzy. The flurry began on July 23, when church representatives concerned with the crisis in Iraq met in the headquarters of the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate in Beirut.

Habib Efrem, the secretary-general of Christian Associations in Lebanon, was tasked with coordinating the work of the church’s “crisis cell,” which is following the Mosul case closely. He told Al-Monitor that what happened in Mosul was a real humanitarian tragedy, but it’s even more dangerous for the case to not be accorded the attention it deserves. Efrem said that two weeks ago, 15,000 Christians were living in Mosul. Today, according to the data from the Syriac Catholic Church, there are less than 20.

Read the full story here.

Translated by Steffi Chakti.

Assyrian International News Agency

American Congressman: the Silence on Persecution of Iraq’s Christians is Deafening

By , July 29, 2014 11:34 am

American Congressman: the Silence on Persecution of Iraq’s Christians is Deafening

Washington — Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today again took to the House floor to speak out for the Christians and other religious minorities who are being systematically targeted for extinction in Iraq:

“I want to read the following piece that was posted on yesterday. The headline was: ‘Has Last Christian Left Iraqi City of Mosul After 2,000 Years?’

“Here is how it began: ‘Samer Kamil Yacub was alone when four Islamist militants carrying AK-47s arrived at his front door and ordered him to leave the city. The 70-year-old Christian had failed to comply with a decree issued by the Islamic State of Iraq and [Syria] (ISIS). Yacub’s hometown of Mosul had boasted a Christian community for almost 2,000 years. But then the al Qaeda-inspired fighters who overran the city last month gave Christians an ultimatum.

“They could stay and pay a tax or convert to Islam — or be killed. Yacub, 70, was one of the few Christians remaining beyond last Saturday’s noon deadline. He may have even been the last to leave alive.’

“‘[A] fighter said, ‘I have orders to kill you now,’” Yacub said just hours after the Sunni extremists tried to force their way into his home at 11 a.m. on Monday. ‘All of the people in my neighborhood were Muslim. They came to help me — about 20 people — at the door in front of my house. They tried to convince ISIS not to kill me.’

“‘The rebels spared Yacub but threw him out of the city where he had spent his entire life. They also took his Iraqi ID card before informing him that elderly women would be given his house.’

“Mr. Speaker, this is but one example of what is unfolding in Iraq right before our eyes. The end of Christianity as we know it is taking place in Iraq.

“This is the fifth time I have come to the floor over the last week to try to raise awareness of what is happening. To talk about the genocide. It is genocide. Yes, genocide: the systematic extermination of a people of faith by violent extremists seizing power in a region.

“Churches and monasteries have been seized. Many of them looted then burned. Last week it was widely reported that ISIS had blown up the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Christians — threatened with their lives if they do not leave the region — are being robbed as they leave lands they have lived on for more than 2,000 years.

“With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country. The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur. Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, came from northwest Iraq. Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons — the 12 tribes of Israel — were born in northwest Iraq. The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq, as did the account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Many of Iraq’s Christians still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

“The Pope has spoken out.

“His Beatitude Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan, overseer of Syriac Catholics around the globe, has spoken out.

“His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, has spoken out.

“Archbishop Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, has spoken out.

“Russell Moore, a key leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, has spoken out.

“Despite these Christian leaders speaking out about the systematic extermination of Christians in Iraq, the silence in this town is deafening. Does Washington even care?

“Where is the Obama Administration? The president has failed.

“Where is the Congress? The Congress has failed.

“Time is running out. The Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq are being targeted for extinction. They need our help.

“Literally, during our time, we will see the end of Christianity in the place it began.”

Assyrian International News Agency

Women Should Not Laugh in Public, Turkish Deputy PM Says

By , July 29, 2014 5:52 am

Women should not laugh out loud in public, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has said while complaining about “moral corruption” in Turkey.

Speaking during an Eid el-Fitr meeting on July 28, Arinc described his ideal of the chaste man or woman, saying they should both have a sense of shame and honor.

“Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness,” Arinc said, adding that people had abandoned their values today.

People needs to discover the Quran once again, Arinc said, adding that there had been a regression on moral grounds.

“Where are our girls, who slightly blush, lower their heads and turn their eyes away when we look at their face, becoming the symbol of chastity?” he said.

He said some TV series geared toward young people had because teenagers to grow up only as “sex addicts,” accusing those who abuse the excitement of youths with publications on TV, the web, newspapers, or in educational places, especially in universities.

Arinc also complained about high consumption, referring to the number of cars and mobile phones that individuals have.

Targeting women once more, Arinc said women talk about unnecessary things on the phone.

“Women give each other meal recipes while speaking on the mobile phone. ‘What else is going on?’ ‘What happened to Ayse’s daughter?’ ‘When is the wedding?’ Talk about this face to face,” he said.

People should not use their personal cars unnecessarily, he also said, adding that even if the Nile River was full of oil, there would not be enough fuel to power cars.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who is running for the presidency against Arinc’s boss, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, commented on Arinc’s statement via Twitter, saying Turkey needed women to laugh, as well as to hear everybody’s happy laughter more than anything.

Assyrian International News Agency

Iraq Appears Split Into Three States

By , July 29, 2014 12:10 am

Ever since U.S. forces invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, the U.S. government has worried that Iraq would splinter into three states — each representing the feuding religious and ethnic factions the dictator held together through his iron rule.

It may no longer be necessary to worry that Iraq will break apart. In many ways, it already has.

The radical Islamic State that seized a swath of western and central Iraq last month effectively left the nation in three pieces, government officials and analysts say.

The United States worries that a fractured Iraq could lead to a failed state, allowing the radical Islamists to establish a stronghold from which they can export terrorism to other parts of the region and world.

Ryan Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, described the divisions as “Shiastan,” “Jihadistan” and Kurdistan. The references are to the majority Shiite Muslims, who run the national government in Baghdad; the insurgent Sunni Muslim jihadists who make up the Islamic State; and the ethnic Kurds, who have long presided over an oil-rich, semiautonomous enclave in the north

“In a sense, it’s apocalypse now,” Crocker said.

“Iraq is not one Iraq anymore,” Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy during a recent U.S. visit.

The challenge for Washington is determining whether — and how — the country can be pieced back together. The Obama administration says Iraq must stay united if it is to take back the country from the radical Islamists.

Ironically, Joe Biden had argued as a U.S. senator in 2006, when Iraq was in the throes of sectarian violence, that the country be divided into three autonomous regions with a weak central government . His idea never gained traction, and the administration in which he serves as vice president argues the opposite view.

“The strongest single blunt to that threat (division) would be a strong capable federal government in Iraq that is actually able to exert control and influence to push back on that threat,” Elissa Slotkin, a top Pentagon official, testified to Congress recently.

Politicians in Baghdad are haggling over formation of a unity government that can fulfill the mission outlined by Slotkin. By custom, the top three jobs are parceled out to the three factions.

Last week, Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum was named the new president of Iraq by Parliament. His selection followed lawmakers’ election of a Sunni, Salim al-Jabouri, as speaker of Parliament.

Lawmakers have a long way to go before creating a broad government that would lessen tensions among the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has been widely criticized within his country and the USA for limiting Sunni participation in his government and empowering Shiite militias that have targeted Sunnis during his eight-year rule. Al-Maliki is fighting to stay in office for a new four-year term.

One key to holding Iraq together is convincing the Kurds, who have long sought an independent state, to remain part of the central government. The Obama administration is trying to convince Kurdish leaders to remain part of Iraq.

“Without the Kurds, you’re going to have a struggle with all Sunni Arabs against an Iranian-backed Shiite rump state,” said James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

The Kurds have seized on the offensive by the radical Sunnis to further assert their independence. Kurdish forces have occupied territory abandoned by Iraq’s army, attempted to sell oil without Baghdad’s approval and announced plans for a referendum on independence.

“Division is the only solution, provided that this division should be consensual,” said Barzo Ibrahim, a civil engineer in Irbil, in Kurdistan. “This is the most difficult part of the task.”

The Kurds have the best chance of survival should they break away from Iraq’s central government. They have created an oasis of political stability in the north, fueled by their own oil reserves and protected by one of the most disciplined fighting forces in the region, the peshmerga.

The Kurds have used the crisis to expand their control over oil-rich Kirkuk in the north by taking over positions from Iraq’s army when it retreated in the face of attacks from Islamic militants. It’s not clear whether the Kurds will withdraw should the crisis subside.

“They are making the most of the current tactical situation,” said Mark Kimmit, a retired Army brigadier general and former State Department official with extensive experience in Iraq.

“They achieved on the ground what they were unable to achieve politically, by moving into positions abandoned by the Iraqi security forces,” he said.

The Kurdish regional government has begun pumping oil from the Kirkuk field into its own network, so it can sell it independently through its pipeline into Turkey, according to the Iraq Oil Report, which covers the industry. Baghdad considers the move illegal.

The Kurds have said Iraq’s central government hasn’t fulfilled its commitment to support the regional government’s budget, leaving the government with no choice but to sell its own oil.

Baghdad still has control over the bulk of Iraq’s oil wealth. The Kurdish region produces about 220,000 barrels per day, compared with about 2.6 million in the Shiite south.

The Sunnis, whose power center is in western Iraq, have little in the way of resources to fall back on. Their anger against al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government has driven many to support the Islamic State.

While the government’s forces are in disarray, al-Maliki has turned again to Shiite militias to help provide security, further heightening sectarian tensions.

Iraq has long had sectarian clashes and divisions. The Sunni minority held power for centuries until the United States ousted Saddam, a Sunni. Iraq’s mostly Sunni Baath Party, which ruled Iraq for decades, ruthlessly suppressed Shiites and Kurds.

Some Iraqis, such as Omar Mohammed, a dentist in Diyala in eastern Iraq, see a splintered Iraq as the only solution after so many episodes of sectarian bloodshed.

“I would accept any solution to stop the bloodshed,” he said, “even if it was a confederation or division.”

Contributing: Gilgamesh Nabeel, Ammar Al Shamary and John Dyer in Baghdad and Sumi Somaskanda from Berlin.

Assyrian International News Agency