MESOP – Report Facing Annihilation – Innocent Assyrian victims of an unfolding Genocide A report by the Assyria Council of Europe (ACE)

14 August 2014 – Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Assyrians and other Iraqi Minorities……………………………………… p. 3
2. The Situation in Mosul since 10 June 2014…………………………………………….. p. 6
3. The Situation in the Nineveh Plain since 10 June 2014……………………………….. p. 11
4. Gains by the “Islamic State” since the Beginning of August………………………….. p. 13
5. The Condition of Refugees and IDPs………………………………………………….. p. 16
6. Conclusion: What is the Solution? ……………………………………………………………………… p. 19
7. Recommendations
7.1. To the Government of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (KRG)………………….. p. 21
7.2. To the Governments of Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region…………..……. p. 21
7.3. To the Government of Turkey……………………………………………….. p. 21
7.4. To the Governments of Turkey and the Gulf States…………………………. p. 22
7.5. To the UN Security Council…………………………………………………. p. 22
7.6. To all Governments………………………………………………………….. p. 22
Appendix: The final ultimatum of the “Islamic State” to Mosul’s Christians…………… p. 23
An “Islamic State” fighter in Mosul, with the ancient city of Nineveh in the background

1. Introduction: Assyrians and other Iraqi Minorities
Assyrians constitute Iraq’s indigenous Christian population. Close to two-thirds of them
belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church, and roughly one-fifth belong to the Assyrian Church
of the East. The rest belong to the Syriac Orthodox Church, Syriac Catholic Church, Ancient
Church of the East, and various protestant denominations. They call themselves Suraye,
which is descended from the ancient term Assurayi, denoting a citizen of the Assyrian
Empire. They are descendants of the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, speak Aramaic, and
originate from and live mainly in northern Iraq, with communities also in Baghdad and
Basrah, as well as adjoining parts of Turkey, Iran and Syria.
Assyrians were the victims of Iraq’s first genocide in between 7 and 16 August 1933. The
ten-day killing campaign conducted by Iraqi troops, under direct government command,
resulted in the slaughter of around 3,000 innocent civilians in and around the town of Simel.
It also led to the destruction of more than 60 settlements, the vast majority of which were
never resettled. While the preamble of the Iraqi constitution mentions the persecution and
massacre of every other ethnic and sectarian group in the country, this tragic episode of Iraqi
history was left out of the new national narrative. Assyrians continued to suffer displacement
from their villages in the northern governorates of Nineveh, Dohuk and Erbil throughout the
period of conflict between Kurdish rebels and the central government between 1961 and
1988, losing scores of settlements. Amongst the 4,500 villages obliterated by the end of the
Anfal campaign in 1988, for instance, more than 150 of them were Assyrian settlements
containing more than 60 historical churches. Between 1991 and 2003, Assyrians were also
among those in the country who were adversely affected by the government’s policies of
“Arabisation” and “Nationality Correction.”
The Assyrians in Iraq currently number between 300,000 and 450,000. In 2003 their
population was estimated at 1-1.5 million, and they now constitute a third of Iraqi refugees in
neighbouring countries. This has come about as a result of Assyrian churches, businesses and
homes throughout Iraq becoming the target of coordinated attacks. Kidnappings, as well as
verbal and written threats to convert to Islam, pay jizyah (an extortion tax imposed upon non-
Muslims), leave the country or else suffer death, have also been commonplace. In February
2008, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Mar Paulus Faraj Rahho, was abducted
and killed. Other priests and religious figures have also been murdered or kidnapped. In total,
more than 413 Christians were killed between 10 April 2003 and 23 March 2012, and 46
churches were attacked or bombed, leaving 95 dead.
One consequence of the partial success of the U.S. military’s “surge” in central and southern
Iraq had been the heavy concentration of insurgents in Mosul, seen as the traditional Assyrian
heartland. Despite dramatically lower levels of violence nationwide, Mosul and surrounding
Nineveh Governorate remained one of Iraq’s most violent areas, accounting for nearly a fifth
of all civilian deaths in 2012 according to the Iraq Body Count monitoring group. At the local
level as well, Nineveh Governorate was perceived to be failing in its security duties to guard
and protect churches, convents, and monasteries with Kurdistan Regional Government
(KRG) authorities filling the security vacuum in the countryside. This has since led to an
uneven system of patronage and intimidation, whereby the Kurds have tried to bring Assyrian
religious and secular leaders to agree with the area’s annexation by the KRG, under whose
authority there have been many documented cases of discrimination and injustice against
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Prior to the Iraq intervention, there were an estimated 130,000 Christians in Nineveh
Governorate, with 35,000 in Mosul. By 2014 the number of Christians in the city had shrunk
to less than a third of that, with only 10,000 remaining. After it was seized by ISIS on 10
June, however, this figure dropped to roughly 2-3,000 as the majority fled for their lives.
Now there are only a handful of Assyrians remaining in the entire Nineveh Governorate,
under the brutal rule of the “Islamic State” (“IS”). The overwhelming majority have sought
refuge with other Assyrians in the Governorates of Dohuk, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and
Yazidis practice a 4,000-year-old religion which focuses on Malak Ta’us (the ‘Peacock
Angel’) as well as other deities. Their numbers have reportedly fallen from 700,000 in 2005
to approximately 500,000. Yazidis live mainly around Sinjar, with smaller communities in
the Shaykhan district and in the cities of Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah. Much mystery
surrounds their origins and ancestry, and they are also to be found in adjoining regions of
Turkey and Syria. They include Kurdish as well as Arabic speakers, and their community
tends to be off-limits to outsiders. Historically, the Yazidis have been subject to acute
persecution by Islamic fanatics who have misconstrued their beliefs and practices as satanic.
According to radical Islamic belief, their religion is not regarded as a “heavenly religion’ and
they are instead classified among the “unbelievers,” with have no rights under Islamic law.
This has led to 72 distinct periods of massacre throughout the Yazidis’ history.
Since 2003, Yazidis have faced increased persecution. Islamist groups have declared them
‘impure’ and call for the death of all members of their community. Significantly, many
Yazidis in Iraq also do not identify with the nation-building project of the Kurds, and prefer
to consider themselves a separate ethnic group. Their reduced numbers are the result of
targeted attacks and due to so many having fled into exile. A July 2008 report from Iraq’s
Ministry of Human Rights stated that between 2003 and the end of 2007, a total of 335
Yazidis had been killed in direct or indirect attacks. Despite a general reduction of violence in
Iraq, attacks against Yazidis have continued.
Shabaks are an ethno-cultural minority that have lived mainly in the Nineveh Plain, east of
Mosul, since 1502. They number between 200,000 and 500,000, and are largely located in
Mosul and some 35 towns and villages in the surrounding countryside. In 2003, there were
about 60-70,000 Shabaks living in Mosul. By 2008 this number had been reduced to less than
10,000, with over 1,000 of them having been killed in the city. They are culturally distinct
from Kurds and Arabs, have their own traditions, and speak a language called Shabaki. About
70 per cent are Shiite, whilst the rest are Sunni. They have been recognized as a distinct
ethnic group in Iraq since 1952. Their status and lands are disputed, however, by both the
Kurds and Arabs wishing to extend land claims into the Nineveh governorate. Like other
minorities in this position Shabaks are suffering targeted persecution and assimilation. In
2005, two Assyrians were killed and four Shabaks were wounded when militiamen from the
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) opened fire on a peaceful demonstration organised by the
Democratic Shabak Coalition – a group which advocates separate representation for the
Shabak community.
The Turkmen claim to be the third largest ethnic group in Iraq, with a history of settlement
dating back to the seventh century AD. Apart from residing in the country’s major urban
centres, a number of rural Turkmen communities are to be found in an arc of towns and
villages in the north of the country, with concentrations in Tel-A‘far, Altun-Kopru, Kirkuk
and Tuz-Khurmatu. Estimates of their population in Iraq before 2003 have ranged from
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between 500,000 and 3 million. Approximately 60 per cent of Turkmen are Sunni, while the
rest are Shiite. Although some have been able to preserve their distinct language, it has been
reported that the Iraqi Turkmen today are rapidly being assimilated into the general Arab and
Kurdish populations and are no longer tribally organised. Between 2003 and 2006, reports
emerged of Kurdish oppression of Turkmen in Kirkuk and especially Tel-A‘far, where the
campaign led to an estimated 1,350 dead, 2,650 wounded, 3,658 houses and 563 shops
damaged, 500 houses completely demolished, 1,468 houses robbed, and 4,685 displaced
A map of Iraq’s governorates in 2013
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2. The Situation in Mosul since 10 June 2014
On 10 June 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured Mosul, briefly entering
the nearby Assyrian town of Bakhdida (Qaraqosh), and the Monastery of Mar Behnam.
Almost immediately after it had secured Mosul, ISIS began to target and drive out the
Assyrians, in addition to Yazidis, all non-Sunni Muslim groups (including Shabaks and
Turkmen), and even Kurds. Two days after their conquest, ISIS issued new Islamic rules for
the city, based on Shari‘ah law, as well as a decree ordering people to send them their
unmarried women so that they could be used for sex by their fighters. Women were ordered
to wear concealing clothes, cover themselves from head to toe, and only go out in the
company of a male relative if needed. The husband of an Assyrian woman was abducted at an
ISIS checkpoint and threatened with death if his wife did not don the Islamic veil. According
to another report, four Christian women were shot and killed by ISIS members because they
were not wearing veils.
ISIS fighters parading in the streets of Mosul
The High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq confirmed that, on 15 June, ISIS began
imposing the jizyah, a poll tax, on Christian citizens in Mosul in an attempt to put pressure on
them and displace them from the city. The minimum payment imposed was $250, with the
amount varying depending on the type of work or profession. They threatened to either kill or
seize the property of those who refused to pay. The economic situation for Christians in
Mosul, however, had become extremely difficult, with no financial resources or job
opportunities except for vegetable shops – any other businesses had become non-existent. In
one instance, ISIS members entered the home of an Assyrian family in Mosul and demanded
the jizya from them. When they replied that they did not have the money, three ISIS members
raped the mother and daughter in front of the father, who was so traumatized that he
committed suicide.
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On 21 June, Shiite Turkmen fled the surrounding villages of al-Kibbah and Shraykhan after
receiving threats from ISIS. Additionally, ISIS arrested 25 men from the Turkmen village of
al-Shamsiyat; their whereabouts is still unknown. That same day, ISIS ordered all Christian,
Yazidi and Shiite government employees and civil servants not to report for work, effectively
rendering them unemployed and cutting off their livelihoods. Women were also forcefully
prevented from working, causing a halt in all financial and banking activity. This was
followed by a significant rise in food prices, with fruit and vegetables becoming very scarce,
and ISIS ordering that no ice blocks are to be sold.
On 26 June, ISIS began confiscating the homes of Christians and non-Sunni Muslims in
Mosul. One refugee reported that ISIS members phoned him to say that his house had been
confiscated for one of the “princes” of the militia. Soon it became clear that armed groups
from ISIS had also seized the residency of the Chaldean Patriarchate, as well as other homes
belonging to some of Mosul’s prominent Assyrians, using them as headquarters’ or as
residences for their own families. They also rounded up Iraqi security agents, policemen and
soldiers, asking them to declare their “repentance” and surrender their weapons and other
military equipment. After having done so, all of the prisoners were tried and sentenced to
death by execution, according to Shari‘ah. Throughout this period, residents continued to
leave Mosul with great difficulty in reaching safe areas.
A new sign bearing the “IS” flag, welcoming people to the Wilayah of Nineveh
On 29 June, ISIS changed its name to the “Islamic State” (“IS”), declaring itself a Caliphate.
In the meantime, the growing scarcity of basic supplies and medicine, as well as severe
electricity and water shortages, had become a threat to the general health and safety of the
population. Furthermore, women and government employees from minority groups, who
were supposed to receive their salaries for the month of June, were never paid. Just over a
week later, all construction work in Mosul had come to a complete stop and construction
workers were now unemployed as well. Around 8 July, the “IS” closed nearly all the city’s
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barber shops and women’s salons. On 15 July, the “IS” ordered the remaining government
workers to cease giving rations to Christians and Shiites in Mosul. Officials in charge of
distributing rations were warned that if they provided Christians and Shiites with rations, then
they would be charged and prosecuted according to Shari‘ah. At any rate, it had been decided
to give citizens only three ration items, including flour, for the month of July.
On 17 July, after Christian leaders and their followers failed to present themselves to the
Caliph as requested, the “IS” issued a statement ordering Christians in Mosul to either
convert to Islam, pay the jizyah, or face the sword. They were allowed to evacuate themselves
from the borders of the “Caliphate” by Saturday 19 July, at noon. The next day, the “IS”
began to mark Christian homes in the city with the Arabic letter ‘n’ (for the word Nasrani,
which means ‘Christian’), and Shiite homes with the letter ‘r’ (signifying the pejorative term
rawafid, i.e. rejecters). These properties were additionally marked as “property of the Islamic
State” and many cases have been reported of them having been looted since.
A Christian house in Mosul marked with the Arabic letter ‘n’ in red, along with the note
“Property of the Islamic State, N”
In the intervening period, more than 200 Assyrian families responded by fleeing the city in a
complete state of terror-stricken panic. To add insult to injury, the “IS” had setup checkpoints
to rob and plunder them, taking money, cars, mobile phones, food, money, gold, fake
jewellery, electronic items and even medicines. Over 85 families who had fled to Bakhdida
reported being robbed of all of their possessions. Hundreds of Assyrians were forced to walk
70 kilometres to Tel-A‘far or Dohuk from Mosul, at night, after the “IS” confiscated their
cars. They carried children on their backs and arrived exhausted and dehydrated. Some 20
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Assyrian families remain stranded in the city, with at least five in the Dawasah
neighbourhood. An additional 15 families subsequently converted to Islam to avoid losing
their lives and wealth. In one instance, a young woman fled from her family in order to avoid
The cathedral and headquarters of the Syriac Catholic Archdiocese, burn down by the
“IS” on 18 July
All 45 Christian institutions in Mosul (including churches, monasteries and cemeteries) have
either been destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to “IS” centres or
headquarters, or otherwise shuttered. Crosses have been removed from all of them and many
of them have been burned or looted. The following are few examples:
• 10 June: An Armenian Apostolic church which was still under construction, in al-
Wahdah neighbourhood. It was not a direct target, but collateral damage in an attack
on nearby remnants of the Iraqi army.
• 11 June: The Chaldean Catholic church of the Holy Spirit was looted by ISIS
members, who removed most of its electrical equipment.
• 21 June: Al-Tahira church (also known as Our Lady of Tigris), which dates back to
the 7th century and was serving as the headquarters of the Chaldean Catholic
Archdiocese of Mosul. There the statue of Virgin Mary was removed.
• 8 July: St. Ephraim Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, in the al-Shurta neighbourhood, was
converted into a mosque by the “IS,” with loudspeakers installed for the call to prayer.
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The cross on top of its dome was also removed. This all occurred one week after the
church was seized by “IS” members on 1 July.
• 18 July: The cathedral and headquarters of the Syriac Catholic Archdiocese were
looted and burned, after the destruction of statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
• 19 July: St. George Chaldean Catholic monastery, in Ba‘wera, was looted.
• 20 July: The 4th century Syriac Catholic monastery of Mar Behnam, near the ancient
Assyrian city of Kalhu (Nimrud), was taken by “IS” fighters. They forced the monks
to leave the monastery and flee on foot to Bakhdida leaving nothing behind.
• The old Syriac Catholic church of St. Thomas was looted after its doors were broken
In addition, and according to Shari‘ah law, Sunni, Shiite and Christian tombs and shrines
have been destroyed. Among them are the historic tombs of the Prophets Jonah, Seth and
Jirjis. Shiite mosques (Husayniyah) have also been demolished.
The mosque and tomb of Nabi Yunus (Prophet Jonah), destroyed by the “IS” on 24 July
In total, roughly 2,000 Christian families had been driven out of Mosul since 10 June 2014.
For those who have remained in the city, there are severe shortages in electricity, drinking
water, cooking gas and petrol. Officials, civil servants and women have not been receiving
their salaries, forcing them to survive on their savings, and it is still unclear how long the
“IS” will remain in control of what it has already taken by force. Military operations by the
Iraqi government and Kurdish peshmerga fighters, in order to take back those areas, are
expected, and people fear further loss of life in the ongoing conflict.
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3. The Situation in the Nineveh Plain since 10 June 2014
After the fall of Mosul to ISIS on 10 June, many of what had previously been known as the
“disputed areas” came under the direct control of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). These
included not only the Nineveh Plain, but also Kirkuk, Tuz-Khurmatu, Khaniqin, Sinjar and
Tell-A‘far – areas populated largely by Iraqi minority groups such as the Assyrians, Yazidis,
Shabak and Turkmen. While welcoming the protection of the Kurdish forces, Assyrians have
nevertheless expressed grave concern about possible Kurdish annexation of their villages and
towns. By 14 June, peshmerga forces had already raised Kurdish flags on government
buildings and checkpoints in these areas, and had attempted to replace existing local officials
with new ones loyal to the KRG.
Kurdish flags raised over the municipality building and entrance checkpoint of Alqosh
On 30 June, six Assyrian students from the town of Alqosh were detained by armed members
of the Asayish (Kurdish intelligence service). They were verbally and physically accosted,
and were taken to the local Asayish headquarters where they were ordered to sit on their
knees for several hours. They received death threats, beatings and torture before being
released late in the night without their wallets and mobile phones. No reason was given to the
students for their detention. Locals have since voiced their sentiment that this is a part of the
Kurdish strategy to use the current turmoil in Iraq to occupy the Nineveh Plain and instil fear
in the local non-Kurdish population, as well as to retaliate against the residents of Alqosh for
thwarting their attempt to replace an Assyrian local council leader with a member of the
KDP, two weeks earlier.
Meanwhile, neither the Iraqi government, nor peshmerga forces, were able to re-enter those
areas which they lost to ISIS. This led to the aggravation of humanitarian conditions and
continued flight of refugees to the IKR, Nineveh Plain and Kirkuk. People internally
displaced by this conflict now number about a million. At this early state, however, an
estimated 500,000 people (including more than 1,000 Assyrian families) fled their homes in
Mosul, finding refuge in the Nineveh Plain, as well as the governorates of Erbil and Dohuk.
Following its takeover, ISIS cut off water and electricity to some parts of Mosul. The villages
surrounding the city also lost their water service, which was provided by the purification
plant there, with access only available for a few hours each day. This led to a full-blown
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crisis in the Tel-Kayf, Hamdaniyah, Bartillah and Ba‘shiqah municipalities, whereby their
inhabitants were buying water at exorbitant and unsustainable prices. Others were forced to
dig wells, many of which had no purification system and were not suitable for drinking water.
By 18 June, ISIS had severely limited the electric service to Tel-Kayf and Hamdaniyah
districts to just one hour per day. The situation of the people displaced in the Nineveh Plain
was further complicated by the fact that ISIS was preventing the delivery of government food
rations to Tel-Kayf and other areas not under their control.
Initially, there were promises from KRG authorities to provide the area with limited services.
These were not honoured. Petrol and cooking gas were becoming scarce, and the cost of basic
materials skyrocketed. Villages and towns thus were rendered unable to use their own private
generators for lack of fuel. The accumulation of waste in residential areas became
significantly noticeable due to the fuel shortages since most sanitation employees were not
working. This increased the possibility of the spread of epidemics. Monitors of this situation
additionally noted a high frequency of anxiety, fear and frustration as a result of these
circumstances. For these reasons, most humanitarian efforts were initially concentrated upon
the Nineveh Plain.
The number of IDPs coming in from Mosul and Tel-A‘far increased daily as ISIS focused its
attention on Bakhdida, inhabited by 50,000 Assyrians. Due to the skirmishes and random
bombing resulting from fighting between ISIS and peshmerga forces, which began on the
evening of 25 June, thousands of families from the Assyrian towns of Bakhdida, Bartillah and
Karimlish fled desperately towards Erbil and Duhok. Initially, there were as many as 50,000
IDPs, with many more stranded in the village of Bardarash near ‘Aqrah. Taking advantage of
this situation, ISIS systematically looted all Assyrian-owned poultry farms, looting USD$8
million worth of livestock and equipment.
Meanwhile, there was a substantial increase in unemployment because of the suspension of
commerce in the Nineveh Plain, as a result of the “IS” invasion. There was also a shortage in
medical services, since medical workers, particularly Shabak and Turkmen, had fled or were
fired by the “IS,” leaving only a few Christian doctors and medical staff. Throughout this
period, tension continued between the “IS” and peshmerga forces, with the Kurds reinforcing
their position on the western side of Bakhdida. On July 22, the “IS” and peshmerga fighters
began to clash near the Assyrian town of Tel-Kayf (22 km north of Mosul) while, in the
meantime, 80% of the inhabitants of Bakhdida had returned to their homes.
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4. Gains by the “Islamic State” since the Beginning of August
On 2 August, the “IS” captured the Yazidi towns of Sinjar and Zummar, along with the
strategic town of Wana and the Mosul Dam, killing 2,000 Yazidis and causing 200,000 to
flee for their lives into the nearby mountains without food and water. In the first two days of
their ordeal, more than 50 Yazidi children and 50 of the elderly died from dehydration and
illness. Some families were compelled to throw their children from the mountaintops so as
not to see them die from hunger or thirst, or so that they would not be taken by the “IS”. As a
result, the world leader of the Yazidis, Prince Tahseen Said, issued an urgent distress call.
Hundreds more are still at risk despite the limited relief and rescue efforts that have recently
taken place. According to one Iraqi General, 70% of the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar have died.
“IS” fighters take the Syriac Orthodox Church in Sinjar on 2 August
The fate of about 50 Assyrian families in Sinjar is still unknown. Fighters from the “IS” took
control of the Syriac Orthodox church there and have covered the cross on its roof with their
black banner. It has been estimated that at least 1,500 Yazidi men were killed in front of their
wives and families and more than 70 girls and women (including both Yazidis and
Christians) were taken, raped and are still being captured and sold. Suicides have occurred in
Sinjar as a result of frustration, desperation and fear. One case has been confirmed of a girl
committing suicide after she saw the “IS” kidnap four of her sisters from their home.
Additionally, the “IS” captured 500 Yazidi families and brought them to Tel-A‘far, where
they are being held hostage and used as human shields. More than 100 of these families are
still being detained at Tel-A‘far military airport, and the rest have been placed in schools and
homes in the city’s the old fortress. Another 150 Yazidi families were deported to Syria for
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unknown reasons, where they are being held at the al-Hol camp. Communication was lost
with many displaced families that are still wandering in the wilderness and remote areas
hoping to meet UN officials, especially after the batteries of their mobile phones were
The continuous shelling of Tel-Kayf by the “IS” led to the death, on 4 August, of one
Assyrian, Lujain Hikmat Nano. He could not be buried there because of the danger, and was
brought to Alqosh for burial instead. Prior to this, most families that had escaped would have
left the odd family-member behind to protect their homes. This tragedy, however, and the
threat it posed, caused fear and panic leading to a complete exodus not only from Tel-Kayf,
but also from the Assyrian settlements of Batnaya, Mar-Oraha, Tel-Isqof and Baqopa. Arab
Muslims also fled the area. The same occurred in the Shaykhan district, with the Assyrian
villages of ‘Ayn-Baqrah, Karanjo, Pirozawa, Dashqotan and Garmawa emptying out as their
destitute inhabitants fled for their lives. In the district centre, ‘Ayn-Sifni, the threat of “IS”
forces having taken Mosul Falls (“Shallalat”), only 10-15 km away, led to an exodus first of
Yazidi families and then of Assyrians.
Assyrian IDPs from Mosul at the Monastery of Mar Matti
In Ba‘shiqah and Bahzani, bombing and skirmishes between the invading forces of the “IS”
and peshmerga fighters again led to the escape of the entire local Assyrian and Yazidi
population. As a result, the nearby monastery of Mar Matti was evacuated of its inhabitants
and IDPs. This was also the case for the villages in the valley below it, including Mergi,
Magharah, Alfaf and al-Barakah.
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At midnight on 6 August, a column of “IS” vehicles entered Tel-Kayf and took control of the
abandoned town, continuing north to Batnaya and Tel-Isqof. In response, practically all the
inhabitants of Alqosh also fled. That same night, peshmerga and and “IS” forces again
clashed 6 kilometres outside Bakhdida. Mortars fell on the city, killing one woman and two
boys (aged 5 and 9), as well as injuring 5 other children. As a result, nearly all Assyrian
residents of the city fled to Erbil. Their flight began at 2:00 am, when Kurdish forces
announced they were withdrawing. The local bishops ordered all churches to ring their bells
to warn the residents to flee. After the Kurdish forces withdrew the “IS” took control of the
city and the surrounding areas, including Karimlish and Bartillah, robbing Assyrian as they
fled. This exodus of over 200,000 people from the Nineveh Plain, over 3 days, was
precipitated in part by the withdrawal of peshmerga forces. With no one left to defend them,
Assyrians and others followed the retreating Kurds.
In Bakhdida, the “IS” rounded up 17 Assyrian families who had remained, bringing them to
the Tawhid Mosque in the city’s al-‘Askari neighbourhood. There they offered them the
option to convert to Islam, pay the jizyah, or accept death. The next evening these families
escaped to ‘Ankawa. The “IS” also killed a young Assyrian man, Rami Hanna Shitte, and
raided and destroyed all liquor stores. In Karimlish the “IS” robbed an elderly Assyrian
couple who was late in fleeing, taking two million Iraqi Dinars (USD$1,700) from them. The
invaders are now using three homes and the KDP building as their bases. Homes have also
been confiscated in Bakhdida and Tel-Kayf for the “princes” of the “IS.” The Assyrian towns
of Tel-Isqof and Ba‘shiqah were completely looted and plundered by the “IS” in broad
daylight, with all homes having been emptied of valuables.
On 11 August, the “IS” asked the handful of Assyrians who had remained in Mosul and
Bakhdida to tell their Christian friends and relatives that they had been “pardoned” and may
return to their homes without fear. Calling the offer “preposterous,” Assyrian leaders asked
how such an “amnesty” can be issued to law-abiding Iraqi citizens who are guiltless and
faultless, saying that amnesty is usually issued for criminals and outlaws. At the moment, this
crisis has led to the abandonment of more than 50 settlements in the Nineveh Plain north and
east of Mosul. These include 28 Assyrian settlements, including towns, villages and
monasteries, as well as 15 Shabak villages, seven Yazidi villages and one Armenian village,
in addition to most hamlets. As early as 7 August, the Iraqi Parliament had passed a
resolution recognising the actions of the “IS” in north Iraq as genocide and crimes against
humanity, calling upon the international community to prosecute the “IS” and to hold
responsible the states and institutions that support or finance their activities, as well as to
establish a safe haven by an international resolution issued by the UN Security Council.
The “IS” continues to violate human rights in areas under its control. The number of women
kidnapped by them is increasing on a daily basis. There are armed women with the “IS”
whose duty is to inspect the faces of other girls and women, selecting and isolating the
beautiful ones for sale or forced marriage to the “IS” fighters. There is no accurate
information regarding the number of non-Sunni families that have stayed behind in these
areas, though the number is thought to be low. Some refugees are still stuck in the far north of
the Nineveh Plain, unable to enter the IKR. They have settled in small villages and groves
and their condition is critical since they lack food, water and shelter. These people also suffer
from the lack of basic services, as well as a shortage of medicines due to limited health care
services available in these areas. Most of these refugees lack funds needed to purchase basic
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5. The Condition of Refugees and IDPs
Since the first hours in which this catastrophe unfolded on 10 June, the AAS-I began to
render aid to as many families as possible in the Nineveh Plain, alongside the Christian
Solidarity International Commission, International Red Cross, Kana, Caritas and the
Hammurabi Human Rights Organisation. This included humanitarian aid, largely in the form
of food packages, drinking water and soft drinks. The number of IDPs was as follows:
Number of
IDP Families
(26 June)1
Number of
IDP Families
(23 July)
Bakhdida (Qaraqosh) 250 —
Alqosh and Sharafiyah 272 100
Karimlish 115 —
Bartillah 135 170
‘Ayn-Sifni 45 110
Pirozawa, ‘Ayn-Baqrah, Karanjo and Dashqotan — 60
Tel-Kayf 65 900
Batnaya 87 120
Tel-Isqof 240 220
Ba‘shiqah, Bahzani and Mar Matti 130 250
Dohuk and Erbil
Erbil/‘Ankawa 350
Dohuk Centre 350
‘Aqrah and Nahla 200
Zakho2 180
Sapna District3 300
Total: 1,689 3,110
It was estimated that upwards of 500,000 people were displaced in total, when Mosul was
initially seized by ISIS on 10 June. To this figure must be added at least 200,000 refugees
from the Nineveh Plain, along with another 200,000 Yazidis and Turkmen from Sinjar,
Zummar and Tel-A‘far, that have been driven out in the last two months. The total figure,
therefore, of people currently displaced in the IKR, in Kurdish-held parts of Syria, and on the
frontiers of the Nineveh Plain, is over 900,000. Of this number, Assyrians and other
Christians account for up to 25%, Yazidis comprising another 25%, and the remainder
including Shabak, Turkmen, Arabs and other small groups. Assyrians have fled to all three
governorates of the IKR: Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah; as well as to Kirkuk, Baghdad and
further south. This influx of refugees has overwhelmed the towns, leading to a shortage of all
basic necessities, including shelter, food and water. Very little relief is reaching them and the
aid being provided by human rights and charitable organisations is severely limited. Iraqi
Kurdish officials have already begun orchestrating the construction of refugee camps in safe
areas within their region.
1 While Assyrian Christians represent 65-70% of these families, the figures also include people from other
religious and ethnic groups.
2 This figure includes the city of Zakho, as well as the villages of Bersive and Fayshkhabur.
3 This figure includes the villages and towns of Mangesh, Sarsang, Badarrash, Aradin, Inishk, Bebad,
Amediyah, Tin, Dawudiyah, Dehe, etc.
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The first wave that reached the Assyrian town of ‘Ankawa, on the outskirts of Erbil, were put
up in hotels, churches, social halls, athletic clubs, as well as the offices and headquarters of
civil society organisations and political parties including the Assyrian Women’s Union,
Chaldo-Assyrian Student and Youth Union, and Assyrian Democratic Movement. The
conditions there have since worsened, since ‘Ankawa has sustained the greatest number of
IDPs. Now there are not enough shelters to accommodate the second wave, with many
sleeping in the gardens of the St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Cathedral and Diocese
headquarters, on sidewalks, in public parks, as well as in unfinished, abandoned and
condemned buildings. Yet others are sleeping in streets and open fields on the outskirts of
town. The Assyrian refugees, especially women, children and the elderly, have suffered from
the scorching sun and extreme heat (40o C during the day), since the majority of them were
forced to walk for tens of kilometres. They were terrified, and peshmerga forces manning the
checkpoints harassed them as they entered. Thousands of them were stranded on the roads
without food or water, with many handicapped and disabled people. For those fortunate to
have cars, they are unable to find shelter and many are currently sleeping in their cars. Many
of these IDPs have even fled as far as Shaqlawa, Rawanduz and Diyana.
Refugees from the Nineveh Plain sleeping out in the open in an ‘Ankawa churchyard
At the provincial level, however, Dohuk has received the majority of refugees, and the city is
handling the influx a little better than ‘Ankawa. Some have taken shelter with their relatives,
while many more have been accommodated in the headquarters of the AAS-I, student
dormitories, church halls, mosques and other places. Most refugees have been sheltered in
vacant homes in dozens of Assyrian villages – some as far north as the Barwari-Bala district,
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on the border with Turkey.4 Clergymen, village leaders and volunteers belonging to these
villages have welcomed and helped to house thousands of families in these homes. They have
assigned 3-4 families per house. School buildings were also declared open for use by the
order of the provincial government and hundreds of families were sheltered in them. The
living conditions for many of these refugees are miserable. In many cases there are more than
100 people are now living in a space that normally accommodates only 20 people. Most of
those families are in a collapsed state. They are in severe need of the basic necessities of life
(food, water, clothing, etc.). The most important thing, however, is housing, especially for
those who are currently taking temporary shelter in schools, dormitories, civil society
buildings, or with relatives.
The situation of the refugees is past critical and is now a humanitarian crisis. Aid must be
delivered immediately to prevent thousands of deaths. Water is the most critical component,
as there is not enough for the needs of the tens of thousands of refugees, who have already
begun using unpurified, stagnant and dirty water for washing as well as consumption. The
threat of a cholera outbreak now looms large. According to a communication from an aid
worker in Dohuk: “It is a tragic situation, nobody can imagine how terrible it is, as much as I
write… it will not be enough to describe the suffering of people… we are all in a bad
situation… one may cry to see those people in this situation.” Psychologically, these people
are still suffering and there is great fear of the possibility that the “IS” will begin abducting
women and enslaving or selling them, as had previously happened in Tal-A‘far and Sinjar.
Some have travelled to the Iraqi-Turkish border crossing of Ibrahim al-Khalil (Habur),
hoping to leave their country. A smaller number are attempting to leave via Erbil
International Airport.
4 Among the villages in Barwari-Bala now harbouring over 300 refugee families are ‘Ayn-Nune (Kani-Masi),
Tashish and Challik. There are another 110 families being sheltered in Assyrian villages of the Simel district
such as Sorka, Bakhitme, Shiyoz and Misurike.
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6. Conclusion: What is the Solution?
So far, many possible solutions have been posited for the current situation of Assyrians in
Iraq. Some have suggested resettlement in the IKR, whilst others have favoured the idea of
Western countries allowing large numbers of them to immigrate and settle there. The first
scenario would only be temporary, and runs contradictory to the obvious nation-building
attempts of the ruling Kurdish political parties. With Assyrians in the IKR already suffering
from this policy, and existing IDPs from elsewhere in Iraq having to obtain residence permits
to remain there, resettlement of the new refugees from Nineveh is implausible. The second
option would mean that Iraq has given up on maintaining its ethnic, religious and linguistic
diversity. It would tear Assyrians and others from the social fabric of the country, and render
them open to eventual assimilation and acculturation in the melting pots of the diaspora, with
all the additional social problems that brings with it.
The proposed boundaries of the Nineveh Plain Governorate, a possible safe haven for
Assyrians and other Iraqi minorities
A different solution, however, has already been implemented within Iraq – the creation of a
UN-protected safe haven. This was brought about in order to protect Kurds and other
minorities, who were suffering oppression and the threat of annihilation by Saddam’s forces.
Furthermore, on 21 January this year the Iraqi Parliament and Cabinet already agreed upon
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the creation of new governorates in the Nineveh Plain, Tel-A‘far and Tuz-Khurmatu – and
the possibility has even been raised in public circles regarding an additional governorate in
Sinjar. Such new provinces would allow members of Iraq’s ultra-minorities, which have been
sidelined in favour of the three major players (Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis), a chance at being
represented and participating fully and fairly in the country’s political life. They would, of
course, each need to have their own police, armed forces, infrastructure, civil society
organisations, educational and university systems, fully integrated with their national
counterparts, led by the central government in Baghdad. Such a model would also offer the
opportunity for these groups to manage their own affairs on a local level and develop their
unique linguistic and ethnic identities, for the first time in recent history.
Whilst Sinjar, for instance, would be a majority Yazidi governorate, Tuz-Khurmatu and Tel-
A‘far would be majority Turkmen governorates. The Nineveh Plain, however, represents an
area of Iraq where at least three of Iraq’s most endangered and heavily-persecuted groups –
the Assyrians, Shabaks and Yazidis – could share in the governance of their own districts, as
an integral part of Iraq. A governorate such as the Nineveh Plain, therefore, would provide a
model of cooperation and coexistence which is at the heart of Iraqi identity, and will serve as
a microcosm of Iraq’s diverse religions, languages and cultures.
For this to occur, however, certain steps need to be taken:
• The areas in question should be cleared from the “IS” and its fighters by means of
targeted airstrikes and land attacks, restoring security and stability, and returning
displaced people to their homes safely.
• The UN Security Council should issue an international resolution for the
establishment of one or more safe havens for people from Iraq’s embattled minority
groups and, if need be, send in UN peacekeeping forces to protect them and ensure
that all refugees are restored to their homes safely.
• New Iraqi military and police units manned and commanded by local Assyrians,
Yazidis, Shabak and Turkmen should be formed, trained and armed, in order to aid in
the liberation and protection of their areas from threats such as the “IS”.
This is not an unrealistic scenario and has been implemented, to some extent, in the following
• In 1991, as already mentioned, for the Kurds in Iraq after the Anfal Campaign and
First Gulf War,
• In 1993 for Bosnian Muslims escaping genocide,
• In 1999 for Albanians in Kosovo escaping persecution,
• In 2011 for the oppressed South Sudanese,
• In 2013 for the refugees in Mali (Africa).
A safe haven for the Assyrians and other groups in the Nineveh Plain Governorate, therefore,
is necessary in order to protect them from the ensuing genocide currently being perpetrated
against them under the “IS”. This current situation of flight and displacement needs to be
temporary and cannot be allowed to continue; otherwise it will have grave implications for
the demography and diversity not only of Iraq, but also of the entire Middle East.
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7. Recommendations
• Investigate cases of intimidation and human rights abuses of Assyrians by members of
the Asayish and peshmerga forces, and prosecute the perpetrators.
• Disband the illegal and unconstitutional “Christian” militia groups that are funded by
the KRG in the Nineveh Plain, and allow them to join the proposed Assyrian units of
the Iraqi military.
• Stop trying to expand KRG territory and respect the right of indigenous minorities,
such as Assyrians, Turkmen, Yazidis and Shabak, to govern themselves and
administer their own ethnic and local affairs within Iraq.
• Designate as disaster areas the towns and districts of Sinjar, Bakhdida
(Qaraqosh/Hamdaniyah), Bartillah, Ba‘shiqah, Tel-Kayf, Alqosh, Shaykhan, Tal-
A‘far, Tuz, Amerli, Bashir and Taza.
• Deliver urgent humanitarian aid to displaced people from those areas by all available
• Promptly allocate sums of money from the emergency budget for the purpose of
securing the humanitarian needs of the residents of those areas, compensating the
homeless and displaced people for damages.
• Allow the formation, training and armament of new Iraqi military and police units
manned and commanded by Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabak and Turkmen, to aid in the
liberation of their areas from the “IS”.
• Clear the areas from the “IS” and its fighters, restore security and stability, and return
the displaced people to their homes safely.
• Implement the agreement, made by Iraqi Parliament and Cabinet on 21 January 2014,
to create new provinces not only in areas where the existence of minority groups is
under threat, such as the Nineveh Plain, Tel-A‘far, Tuz-Khurmatu, but also in Sinjar.
• Stop regarding the Assyrians (including Chaldeans and Syriacs) as a religious
minority, and refrain from calling them Christians. They are the oldest inhabitants of
Iraq and, as such, they should have the same rights enjoyed by the Arabs, Kurds and
others in the country.
• Investigate and prosecute members of the “IS” suspected of committing, being
complicit in or having command responsibility for war crimes in Iraq or Syria.
• Prevent the entry of fighters and arms flows to “IS” forces in Iraq and Syria, as well
as to other armed groups believed to be responsible for committing war crimes there.
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• Publicly renounce the provision of any financial or material support, including arms
transfers, to the “IS” and all other armed groups alleged to be responsible for
committing war crimes or grave human rights abuses in Iraq and Syria.
• Take effective measures to prevent the transfer of financial or material support to the
“IS” and other armed groups alleged to be committing war crimes and serious human
rights abuses in Syria.
• Designate the acts perpetrated by the “IS” against Assyrians, Yazidis, Shabak and
Turkmen in north Iraq as crimes against humanity, denounce them as genocide, and
demand the prosecution of the perpetrators.
• Issue an international resolution for the establishment of one or more safe havens for
people from Iraq’s embattled minority groups and, if need be, send in UN
peacekeeping forces to protect them and ensure that refugees are restored to their
homes safely.
• Demand that UN-affiliated humanitarian organisations work hard for the relief of the
displaced people now in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, according to the UN Charter.
• Refer the situation in Iraq and Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal
• Call on states to suspend arms transfers to the “IS” and other armed groups implicated
in the commission of war crimes and serious human rights abuses.
• Hold responsible the states and institutions that support or finance the activities of the
• Provide all means of support, including immediate shipments of food, water, tents and
other emergency relief aid to agencies coping with the current humanitarian crisis in
the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
• Accept a shared responsibility to investigate and prosecute war crimes and other
crimes under international law committed in Iraq and Syria. In particular, seek to
exercise universal jurisdiction over these crimes before national courts in fair trials.
• As part of this shared responsibility, establish joint international investigation and
prosecution teams to investigate crimes under international law committed in Iraq and
Syria to improve the effectiveness of investigation, improve the chances of arrest and
co-ordinate prosecutions.
• Hold responsible the states and institutions that support or finance the activities of the
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The final ultimatum of the “Islamic State” to Mosul’s Christians
On 17 July 2014, the “IS” issued an ultimatum to all Christians in Mosul that they must
convert to Islam, pay the jizyah, or face the sword. They also gave noon on 19 July as the
deadline to comply with its demands. Most of Mosul’s Assyrians responded by fleeing the
city. Here is the text of the statement by “IS,” as well as a photograph of it:
“IS” Flag In the name of Allah, the
Compassionate, the Merciful
Islamic State
Office of the Judiciary
Number: 10
Date: 19 Ramadan 1435 A.H.
17 / 7 / 2014 A.D.
Praise be to Allah who has glorified Islam with its victory, humiliator of polytheism through
its conquest, and renderer of days into judgment through its justice; prayers and peace be
upon whoever Allah lifted the illumination of Islam with his sword, and hereafter:
Almighty Allah says: “And when a community among them said: ‘Why do you preach to a
people whom Allah is about to destroy or to punish with a severe torment?’ [The preachers]
said: ‘In order to be free from guilt before your Lord [Allah], and perhaps they may fear
Allah.” al-A‘raf (163) [sic].
After the heads of the Christians and their children were notified of the date to attend in order
to demonstrate their presence under the polity of the Caliphate, in the Wilayah [State] of
Nineveh, they turned away and failed to attend at the time which was appointed and of which
they were notified in advance, so it was decided that we offer them one of the three:
1. Islam [submission, i.e. to become Muslim].
2. Dhimmi status (which means taking jizyah from them).
3. If they refuse that, then there is nothing for them but the sword.
The Prince of the Faithful Caliph Ibrahim – may Allah glorify him – has privileged them by
allowing them to evacuate themselves only from the borders of the polity of the Caliphate at
the latest by Saturday 21 Ramadan 1435 [19 July 2014] at 12:00 pm, and after this date, there
is nothing between us and them but the sword.
“Glory to Allah, his Prophet and the believers, but the hypocrites do not know.”
Wilayah of Nineveh
Office of the Judiciary
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