Conversion of Iraq: As Isis drives Christians out of their homes, the group’s genocidal intentions take on horrible clarity

Editorial

Share

While Israel ramped up its offensive in Gaza on Sunday, with appalling loss of life and injuries, 1,200km to the north-west in Iraq a different, but hardly lesser, tragedy was under way as the Christian community of Mosul poured out of the city where they have lived for 1,600 years in search of refuge.

The organisation we are invited to call the Islamic Caliphate (Isis) possesses the virtue of clarity, if nothing else. Hitler’s genocidal plans for the Jews became public knowledge only years after he came to power. The Soviet gulags were for a long time shrouded in secrecy. But Isis has never made any bones about either means or ends.

The ends: to establish a worldwide Islamic state based on the most reductive and intolerant version of Sunni Islam. The means: the elimination of everyone who believes something different and refuses to convert.

Since their capture of Mosul on 10 June, these fanatics have wasted no time slaughtering large numbers of brother Muslims who follow the Shia tradition. They boast of having “executed” 1,700 Shia soldiers n the town of Tikrit.

But there was no reason to suppose they would look more benignly on other types of “infidels”, and now they have turned their attention to the remnants of the other communities that until recently made Iraq a rich patchwork of ancient beliefs.

So it was that on Friday the Christians of Mosul, a community of thousands settled in the city since the early days of Christianity, were given 24 hours to either convert or face the sword. A third alternative was to pay jizya, an Islamic tax historically levied on religious minorities.

But only a brave or gullible “infidel” would put much faith in protection of that sort, and Christians as well as Yazidis and Shabaks, two other Iraqi minorities, are now fleeing for their lives.

For the Christians this is not a new catastrophe but rather the consolidation and systemisation of a terrible process of extirpation from their historic homelands that has been under way for years. It is nonetheless remarkable that the West has so far had nothing in particular to say about it.

The reason is that the Middle East policy of the US and the UK is in a total mess. If the Iraq war of 2003 was motivated by the absurd notion that Saddam was allied with al-Qa’ida, and justified by the erroneous claim that he possessed weapons of mass destruction, the more recent support for opponents of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad – which, but for an intelligent  vote by the House of Commons, could easily have tipped us into another counter-productive war – is now beginning to look just as misconceived.

President Assad is unquestionably a murderous and ruthless tyrant. But as an Alawite, a variety of Shia, he was at least protective to Syria’s minorities, however horrific the rest of his rule.

Meanwhile, the rebels of the Free Syrian Army, in whom we placed our rash hopes of converting Syria into a pluralistic democracy, have dwindled into impotence, their role taken by Isis – a well-funded band of compulsive killers in control of a new state bigger than Great Britain that sprawls over large areas of both Syria and Iraq.

This may be the first time that an up-and-coming power has advertised its genocidal intentions, while starting to carry them out. How these monsters are to be confronted is not yet clear, but confronted they must be.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Read Next
No supporters react to results in the Scottish independence referendum at The Marriott Hotel in Glasgow as ballet papers are counted through the night.  

Scottish referendum results: Thank you, thank you, thank you to the No voters – the Union is saved

Andy McSmith
Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a visit to Scottish Widows offices in Edinburgh, where he made an impassioned plea to keep Scotland part of the union, saying he would be  

Scottish referendum results: David Cameron did the right thing, so why does Scotland’s vote feel like a defeat?

John Rentoul
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week