• Persecution of Iraqi Christians a crime, says Ban

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    An Iraqi Christian holds a rosary during a mass at the Saint-Joseph church in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on Sunday. Hundreds of Christian families fled their homes in Mosul on Sunday, as a jihadist ultimatum threatening their community’s centuries-old presence in the northern Iraqi city expired. AFP PHOTO

    An Iraqi Christian holds a rosary during a mass at the Saint-Joseph church in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on Sunday. Hundreds of Christian families fled their homes in Mosul on Sunday, as a jihadist ultimatum threatening their community’s centuries-old presence in the northern Iraqi city expired. AFP PHOTO

    UNITED NATIONS, United States: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday (Monday in Manila) that the persecution of Iraqi Christians who have been driven from their homes in Mosul by Islamic State militants could constitute a crime against humanity.

    Hundreds of Christian families fled their homes in the northern city on Saturday as an ultimatum threatening their community’s centuries-old presence there expired.

    Ban “condemns in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of minority populations in Iraq by Islamic State and associated armed groups,” a UN statement said.

    The United Nations chief emphasized that “any systematic attack on the civilian population, or segments of the civilian population, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity.”

    The militants, who have run the city since a sweeping military offensive that began six weeks ago, issued an ultimatum to Mosul’s thousands of Christians to either convert, pay a tax, leave or face imminent execution.

    Mosul’s new rulers said there would be “nothing for them but the sword” if Christians did not abide by those conditions by 9 a.m. on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

    While some families initially appeared prepared to pay the “jizya” Islamic tribute to stay in their homes, messages broadcast by mosques on Friday (Saturday) sparked an exodus.

    Ban was “particularly disturbed by reports of threats against Christians in Mosul and other IS-controlled parts of Iraq,” the UN statement said.

    It added that he was also concerned by “reports that Turkoman, Yazidis and Shabaks are facing abductions, killings or the destruction of their property, and that the homes of Christian, Shia and Shabak residents in Mosul have been marked.”

    Before the 2003 US invasion, more than a million Christians lived in Iraq, including more than 600,000 in Baghdad and 60,000 in Mosul, as well as a substantial number in the oil city of Kirkuk and in Basra.

    Until their forced exodus over the weekend, Christians had been continuously present in Mosul for about 16 centuries.

    Other persecutions
    The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Nickolay Mladenov, also condemned the persecution of minority religious communities besides including, like the Shia, Shabak, Turkmen or Yazidis in Mosul and the Ninewa province, following disturbing reports that members of these communities have come under direct attack and persecution by IS and associated armed groups.

    “The United Nations reiterates its commitment to rapidly respond to the shocking displacement and the needs of the hundreds of minority families from Mosul, forced to flee their homes because of their ethnic or religious background”, Mladenov said, adding that “the United Nations will deliver humanitarian assistance to those families, wherever they are”.

    “The UN Humanitarian teams are closely cooperating with the Kurdistan Region Government, as well as with non-government agencies to aid those hundreds of thousands of displaced people,” he added.

    Over the last few days, increasing numbers of families from different neighborhoods of Mosul were reported fleeing the city. Some have gone to al-Qosh sub district, others to Bartala or Qaraqosh. The UN has accounted for a total of 400 families arriving at six different locations in Dohuk and Erbil this morning.

    AFP WITH THE TIMES

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