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International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern has learned that ISIS militants have issued a contract between them and the Christians of the city of al-Quaryatayn in central Syria that grants them protection of their lives in exchange for a tax and agreement to follow a set of strict guidelines. More than 200 others, including at least one priest, were held as hostages according to the Syriac Bishop of Homs after Islamic jihadists took the city of al-Quaryatayn in early August.
ISIS (also known as the so-called Islamic State) on Thursday, September 3, published a photo report "The establishment of the rule of God on the Christians of the city of Quaryatayn," Jamil Diarbakerli, Director of the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights told ICC. "The meeting showed images of a lot of Christians abducted from the city of al-Quaryatayn, in what is believed to be a cultural center. It also stipulated 13 items to give security to the Christians in the city," Diarbakerli said.
According to a summary of the contract published by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the stipulations include: "Not to establish any church, monastery and hermitage. Not to show a cross or anything from their books in Muslims roads and markets, and not to use amplifiers when they perform their prayers. Not to make Muslims hear the recitation of their books and sound of their bells, and to use the bells only inside the churches." In its conclusion, the statement said that they will have safety if they abide by the conditions and if not "In case they violate the conditions of this writ, then 'Islamic State' is going to deal with them as they deal with people of war (warriors)."
There are an estimated 250 Syriac Orthodox Christians remaining in al Quaryatayn, a Syriac Orthodox Bishop told ICC, including Father Jacob Murad.
"Father Jacob Murad was part of the negotiations that were ongoing into the early hours ofWednesday morning," Diarbakerli confirmed to ICC.
Father Murad was abducted by armed militants from the Mar Elian Monastery where he served as Prior. The monastery had served hundreds of those who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in Syria. On August 21, ISIS released a video documenting the destruction of the monastery, just one of many churches and other religious sites the group has destroyed.
A letter and a video of Father Murad was released today in which he expresses that he is in good health and has not been mistreated, Fides reported. Its date and the circumstances under which it was produced remain unclear.
According to local ICC sources and also the SOHR, at least some Christians have paid the "jizya" or a ransom payment to ISIS, but their ID cards are still being held and that has prevented them from leaving the city.
The contract establishing "Dhimmi" status for Christians is something ISIS previously issued to Christians in the Northeastern Syrian city of Raqqa in February 2014, as they solidified their hold on the city that has become the de facto capital of ISIS operations. According to former residents of Raqqa, not a single Christian remains in the city.
Todd Daniels, Middle East Regional Manger for ICC, said, "The release of this agreement once again highlights the intents of the jihadists of ISIS to create a society in which only those who follow their strict interpretation of Islam have any sense of freedom. These restrictions nearly eliminate the presence of Christianity in this region. The campaign by ISIS extremists to establish their Islamic State and to drive out Christianity from Syria continues to amplify suffering and has caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Christians and more than 12 million Syrians. There will be no stable and lasting peace in Syria until citizens from all faiths are able to live together with all rights protected."
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