The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) is killing, kidnapping, and threatening religious and ethnic minorities in and around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Since capturing Mosul on June 10, 2014, the armed Sunni extremist group has seized at least 200 Turkmen, Shabaks, and Yazidis, killed at least 11 of them, and ordered all Christians to convert to Islam, pay “tribute” money, or leave Mosul by July 19.
On June 29, ISIS abducted two nuns and three Christian orphans, whom it held for 15 days. Around that same time, ISIS issued orders barring Yazidi and Christian employees, as well as ethnic Kurds, from returning to their government jobs in Mosul, two regional government officials and a priest told Human Rights Watch.
Virtually all Turkmen and Shabaks – tens of thousands of families – have fled their communities near Mosul as a result of ISIS raids, in which the fighters seize local men and pillage homes and places of worship, residents of those villages said. Mosul’s few remaining Christian families also have fled, local priests said.
“ISIS should immediately halt its vicious campaign against minorities in and around Mosul,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Being a Turkman, a Shabak, a Yazidi, or a Christian in ISIS territory can cost you your livelihood, your liberty, or even your life.”
Local Shabak and Shia Turkmen representatives told Human Rights Watch that they have received reports from Sunni contacts that ISIS has killed many of the men taken prisoner. ISIS has summarily executed Shia captives several times in Iraq, for example killing soldiers en masse in Tikrit, 180 kilometers north of Baghdad, after taking that city on June 11. It reportedly killed at least 40 Shia Turkmen, including children, in four communities near the city of Kirkuk, about 100 kilometers southeast of Mosul, on June 16.
ISIS has also tortured some of its detainees, Human Rights Watch said. In June, ISIS captured 28 Yazidi border guards and held them hostage for ransom for up to 25 days. Two of those guards told Human Rights Watch after their release that ISIS repeatedly beat the Yazidis with guns and sticks, and called them “infidels.”
On July 14, three days before it issued its decree on Christians, ISIS began placing marks on minorities’ properties to designate them as Christian, Shia Shabak, or Shia Turkmen, and levying a “jihad tax” on the few remaining Christian merchants, Christian residents and religious authorities told Human Rights Watch.