ISIS’ destruction of places of worship and historical sites is well documented. 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.
Valuable items from some buildings were looted in order to smuggle and sell them to finance their activities. ISIS uses a unit called the Kata’ib Taswiyya (settlement battalions) to select targets for demolition. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova branded these activities as “a form of cultural cleansing.”
Some religious sites, particularly churches, were converted into bases and headquarters to train and indoctrinate their followers. The church of Um al-Maunah [“Mother of Aid”] which belongs to the Chaldeans in the al-Dawasa neighbourhood 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.
In June 2014, it was reported that ISIS militants had been instructed to destroy all churches in Mosul. Since then, most churches within the city have been destroyed including the Virgin Mary Church, Dair Mar Elia, the oldest monastery in Iraq, St Markourkas Church, a 10th-century Chaldean Catholic church, as well as many others.
The Chaldean Catholic population in Iraq has dramatically decreased. In 2003 there were approximately 1 million. Now there are less than 350,000 Chaldeans in the country.