Churches across Nineveh, especially in the city of Mosul, were ransacked, pillaged and even destroyed by ISIS when the group first took control of Iraq’s northern province in 2014. Places of worship that belonged to religions and sects that lay outside ISIS’ uncompromising and totalitarian beliefs were instantly desecrated, misused and destroyed by the terrorist group.
The destruction of places of worship and historical sites is one of the hallmarks of the militant group. In Iraq, between the fall of Mosul in June 2014 and February 2015, the group had plundered and destroyed at least 28 historical religious buildings.
Mosul, and the wider province of Nineveh, are home to some of the grandest and oldest churches, not only in the region, but in the world. The Christian population in northern Iraq is one of the world’s oldest Christian communities and as a result the heritage of this group is rich in history and culture.
However, as part of the group’s genocidal campaign against minorities in Iraq, ISIS sought to wipe out the Christian community in Nineveh and obliterate their history and culture by targeting their places of worship and holy sites. When the group took Nineveh, militants were ordered to destroy all churches in Mosul. This began a destructive campaign which saw most churches within the city being destroyed including the Virgin Mary Church, Dair Mar Elia, the oldest monastery in Iraq, St Markourkas Church and many others.
Some churches, were converted into bases and headquarters to train and indoctrinate their members and even children. The church of Um al-Maunah [“Mother of Aid”] which belonged to the Chaldean community in Mosul is an example of this. The Church was overrun in 2014 and was then turned into the headquarters of the so-called Diwan al-Hisba [ISIS’ religious police office] by the group.
Aside from damage done to their places of worship, Christians were subject to abductions and violence by ISIS militants. This treatment of Christians even extended to children. Under the group, the size of the minority population in Nineveh (Yazidis, Christians, Shabaks etc.) halved as a result of ISIS terror and forced displacement.