After prompting the Christian population in parts of Iraq and Syria to flee out of fear for their safety, the Islamic State terror group has begun confiscating the business assets of those who left.
Agence France-Presse reported that Islamic State militants controlling the Iraqi city of Mosul are forcing businesses that are partially owned by Christians or Shiites to turn over the Christian and Shiite portion of the assets to the Sunni jihadist group.
Iraqi Christians, who fled the violence in the city of Mosul, decorate a cross with lights in commemoration of the Elevation of the Holy Cross festival on September 14, 2014, in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. The annual Christian feast marks the recovery of the Cross on which Jesus Christ is believed to have been crucified by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in 627 AD after defeating the Sassanid Persians. (Photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
Witnesses told AFP that armed squads have been going from shop to shop to investigate the religion of the owners and have told them that the absentee owners’ shares must be relinquished.
“This is done verbally by small units who stop at every shop, business and market,” a business owner told AFP. “They are giving us very little notice to hand over those assets and are telling us: ‘If you don’t comply, we will seize everything you own.’”
The Assyrian National News Agency quoting Alsumaria News reported that a deadline of two days was given to comply before the confiscations were to begin.
In this Sunday, June 22, 2014 file photo, a fighter from the militant group who refer to themselves as the Islamic State, distributes a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, to a driver in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The extremist-held Iraqi city of Mosul is set to usher in a new school year. But unlike years past, there will be no art or music, and classes about history, literature and Christianity have been “permanently annulled.” (AP Photo, File)
In addition, posters in the city had a message for Sunnis who fled, warning them that they must return or lose their property.
“They are saying that any Sunni resident of Mosul who fails to return to live under the caliphate will be declared an apostate,” a resident told AFP.
Most of the Christian population fled the city after being warned they would need to either convert, pay a special protection tax known as jizya or “face the sword.” Women have been forced to cover themselves from head to toe in strict Islamic style, and churches have been burned and looted as Islamic State militants took over the area.
AINA reported that the Islamic State has begun taxing all goods entering Iraq’s Nineveh Province and items considered offensive to Islam are confiscated and destroyed.
News of the business seizures came on the heels of an alarm sounded this week by Middle Eastern Christian leaders who have called on Muslim governments to condemn the jihadist group for targeting religious minorities, calling the response so far “timid.”
"We are calling on the religious leaders of the Muslim countries to issue a fatwa against the killing of any human being, not just other Muslims," Patriarch Sako I of the Chaldean Catholic Church said according to Reuters. "So far, their voice has been very timid."
"The situation of Christians and other minorities amid the massacres and atrocities of [Islamic State] is dire and our future in the region is at stake," Patriarch Ignace III of the Syrian Catholic Church of Antioch said. "The leaders of Arab countries and the Arab League have to stand up and do something."