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ICC Note: As ISIS continues to displace thousands, the Middle East is quickly losing its Christian population. The individual stories of dislocation and capture are riveting, and the large scale reality is that Christians are disappearing from their ancient homelands. ISIS isn’t the first group to try and cleanse the Middle East of Christians but it is threatening to be the last as more and more people flee, with no hope of ever being able to return. It leads many to wonder if we are witnessing the final days of a significant Christian presence in the region.

07-22-2015 Iraq (NY Times): There was something about Diyaa that his wife’s brothers didn’t like. He was a tyrant, they said, who, after 14 years of marriage, wouldn’t let their sister, Rana, 31, have her own mobile phone. He isolated her from friends and family, guarding her jealously. Although Diyaa and Rana were both from Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq, they didn’t know each other before their families arranged their marriage. It hadn’t gone especially well. Rana was childless, and according to the brothers, Diyaa was cheap. The house he rented was dilapidated, not fit for their sister to live in.

Qaraqosh is on the Nineveh Plain, a 1,500-square-mile plot of contested land that lies between Iraq’s Kurdish north and its Arab south. Until last summer, this was a flourishing city of 50,000, in Iraq’s breadbasket. Wheat fields and chicken and cattle farms surrounded a town filled with coffee shops, bars, barbers, gyms and other trappings of modern life.

Then, last June, ISIS took Mosul, less than 20 miles west. The militants painted a red Arabic ‘‘n,’’ for Nasrane, a slur, on Christian homes. They took over the municipal water supply, which feeds much of the Nineveh Plain. Many residents who managed to escape fled to Qaraqosh, bringing with them tales of summary executions and mass beheadings. The people of Qaraqosh feared that ISIS would continue to extend the group’s self-styled caliphate, which now stretches from Turkey’s border with Syria to south of Fallujah in Iraq, an area roughly the size of Indiana.

As Diyaa and Rana hid in their basement, ISIS broke into stores and looted them. Over the next two weeks, militants rooted out most of the residents cowering in their homes, searching house to house. The armed men roamed Qaraqosh on foot and in pickups. They marked the walls of farms and businesses ‘‘Property of the Islamic State.’’ ISIS now held not just Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, but also Ramadi and Fallujah. (During the Iraq War, the fighting in these three places accounted for 30 percent of U.S. casualties.) In Qaraqosh, as in Mosul, ISIS offered residents a choice: They could either convert or pay the jizya, the head tax levied against all ‘‘People of the Book’’: Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews. If they refused, they would be killed, raped or enslaved, their wealth taken as spoils of war.

The women were driven to Mosul, where, the next day, Rana’s captor called her brothers. ‘‘If you come near her, I’ll blow the house up. I’m wearing a suicide vest,’’ he said. Then he passed the phone to Rana, who whispered, in Syriac, the story of what happened to her. Her brothers were afraid to ask any questions lest her answers make trouble for her. She said, ‘‘I’m taking care of a 3-year-old named Christina.’’

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