On July 18th, the violent extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, issued an ultimatum, giving Christians living in Mosul four choices: they must leave the city by noon of the following day; stay and pay a tax (known as jizya) of an unspecified amount; convert to Islam; or be killed. Those who decide to leave the city must leave all their possessions behind.
ISIL is implementing a brutal interpretation of Islamic law in an effort to forcibly impose their particular interpretation of the Koran and Sharia on people living within their sphere of influence. They are persecuting and brutalizing not only Christians, but also Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims who oppose them, and other ethnic and religious minorities such as Shabaks, Turkmen, and Yazidis. And they are destroying holy sites. Churches have been destroyed, along with a number of shrines belonging to revered Sunni or Sufi figures, and several Shia mosques have been looted and bulldozed to the ground.
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of ethnic and religious minorities by the terrorist group ISIL. We are outraged by ISIL’s treatment of Shia Muslims, Christians and other religious and ethnic groups, as well as its targeting of Sunni clerics and tribal sheikhs who disagree with its dark vision for Iraq.
These abominable actions only further demonstrate ISIL’s mission to divide and destroy Iraq. It should be clear that ISIL is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region. This growing threat exemplifies the need for Iraqis from all communities to work together to confront this common enemy and to take all possible steps to isolate these militant groups from the broader population.
We encourage government officials in Baghdad and Erbil to make every possible effort to assist Iraq’s vulnerable populations and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions in a manner consistent with the rule of law. The United States stands with all the Iraqi people against the threat from ISIL.