September 13, 2023

9 Years After ISIS Genocide, the Plight of Iraqi Christians Remains Ongoing

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by Uzat Bulut, Research Fellow

When many Westerners hear the word “Iraq” today, they may think that it has always been a majority-Muslim country. Yet, the Middle East region, including modern-day Iraq, has a pre-Islamic history for over millennia-long. This region is also the ancient land of the indigenous Assyrian people and an immensely significant place for Christianity.

In fact, the land now known as Iraq is often referred to as the birthplace of the Bible. This land –also called the “cradle of civilization” – is where Christianity was brought to light during the first century. This was through the work of Thomas the Apostle and Mar Addai (Addai of Edessa) and his pupils Aggai and Mari.

Iraq is where Assyrians, amongst the oldest of Christian communities, have lived for millennia.  Since the 7th century Islamic invasion of the region, Christian communities have been persecuted at the hands of Muslims. This persecution peaked in 2014 when the Islamic State (ISIS) invaded Iraq’s Christian towns and villages in an attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate.

On August 6, 2014, Iraqi Christians faced unimaginable persecution and fled their homes during the invasion of Iraq by ISIS. That day, also called “The Black Day,” is when innocent lives were uprooted, families torn apart, and ancient Christian communities displaced from their ancestral lands.

As ISIS advanced through northern Iraq, home to a significant indigenous Christian population, many were given an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay a hefty religious tax (jizya), or face death.