First Published: 2017-03-10

Mosul church turned into IS religious police base
Chaldean Catholic church was important office for IS authorities tasked with making sure Mosul residents had beard, wore short robes, followed their extremist convictions.
Middle East Online

IS militants left some churches in Mosul destroyed

MOSUL - The elegant columns of a west Mosul church stand plastered with Islamic State group propaganda after the jihadists' infamous religious police took over the Christian place of worship.

The sign above the door of Um al-Mauna (Our Mother of Perpetual Help) in Iraq's second city reads "Chaldean Catholic church", but its jihadist occupants had other ideas.

"No entry, by order of the Islamic State Hesba Division (the religious police), they wrote on the building's outside wall.

Five jihadists lie dead outside, their bodies twisted and one with the top of his skull blown off, after Iraqi forces retook the neighbourhood from IS this week.

The church "was an important office for the authorities tasked with making sure (Mosul) residents had a beard, wore short robes and followed their extremist convictions," says Lieutenant Colonel Abdulamir al-Mohammedawi of the elite Rapid Response Division.

Iraqi forces are pushing an offensive to retake the whole of Mosul, the jihadist group's last major urban bastion in the country, after retaking its eastern side in January.

IS fighters took control of the city in 2014, imposing their harsh interpretation of Islamic law on its inhabitants.

Above the door of the ochre-coloured church, IS members have damaged a stone cross. Not far away, they seem to have tried to rip another from a metal door off its hinges.

Not a single crucifix, or statue of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary has survived in the building's nave, from which all mark of Christianity has been methodically removed.

Only the grey marble altar remains. In the church's empty alcoves lies the base of a statue that was probably also destroyed, decorated with red and yellow flowers.

The posters on the church's marble columns give an indication of what life was like under IS.

- Chilling illustrations -

One shows religious invocations to repeat in the mornings and evenings, while another explains the benefits of praying in a mosque.

A "town document" lists the 14 rules of life in Mosul under jihadist rule: "The trade and consumption of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes is banned."

Women should wear modest attire and only appear in public "when necessary", it says.

A pamphlet on the rubble-covered ground explains the different forms of corporal punishment prescribed for theft, alcohol consumption, adultery and homosexuality.

It comes complete with chilling illustrations.

Jihadists have scribbled their noms de guerre on the church's walls, and a large chandelier has been dumped in the yard.

In the church's small side rooms, artificial flower garlands are draped near posters explaining how to use a Kalashnikov rifle.

Chaldeans make up the majority of Iraq's Christians. But a community that numbered more than a million before the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein has since dwindled to less than 350,000 in the face of recurring violence.

In June 2014, jihadist fighters led by IS seized control of Mosul and ordered the city's Christian community to convert to Islam, pay a special tax, leave or face execution.

Weeks later, the jihadists swept through Qaraqosh and the rest of the Nineveh Plain east of Mosul, where an estimated 120,000 Christians lived, prompting them all to flee.

But the Um al-Mauna Church is in a better condition than most of the rest of the Al-Dawasa neighbourhood, which has been ravaged by the fighting.

On one of its empty trading streets, once flashy shop facades have been reduced to contorted iron and shredded concrete.

On one poster advertising male clothing, IS members -- whose interpretation of Islam forbids human representation -- have blacked out the faces and bare arms of the models.

 

Regime strikes in Syria enclave despite ceasefire call

Russia pours cold water on UN bid to condemn Iran over missiles to Yemen

Egypt presidential race starts with Sisi likely to win

Christian leaders close Church of the Holy Sepulchre in tax dispute

Blatter supports Morocco bid for 2026 World Cup

Iraq condemns 15 Turkish women to death for belonging to IS

Thousands expected for radical Israeli rabbi's funeral

Syrian Kurd leader arrested in Prague

Philippine officials meet nationals in Kuwait amid labour row

Families of IS suspects in Iraq face 'collective punishment'

Iran's ex-intelligence minister slams handling of prison death

More strikes hit E. Ghouta as UN delays truce vote

Turkey says US embassy Jerusalem opening in May 'extremely worrying'

Lebanon says both suspects in Kuwait murder of Filipina maid held

38 dead in Mogadishu car bombings

Morocco police arrests prominent newspaper publisher

Syria regime continues to pound Ghouta as world stutters

UN rights commission wants S.Sudan war crimes charges

Iran grounds airline's ATR planes after crash

Turkey summons Dutch diplomat over Armenian 'genocide' vote

Turkey navy threatens to engage Italian drillship near Cyprus

Iran police shoving headscarf protester sparks social media storm

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Syria ceasefire

Dubai says Djibouti illegally seized African port

Dutch parliament recognises 1915 Armenian massacre as genocide

Heavily bombarded Eastern Ghouta awaits UN resolution

Russia says Syria rebels rejected offer to evacuate E. Ghouta

UN diplomats press for Syria ceasefire without Russia veto

Iranian minister’s presence at UN rights meeting angers critics

Iran warns it will leave nuke deal if banks cannot do business

Qatar to plant thousands of trees to ‘beautify’ World Cup venues

Pro-Kurdish party says Turkey lying about 'no civilian deaths' in Afrin

African migrants protest Israeli detention policy

Egypt sentences 21 to death for planning attacks

Israeli handball teams in Qatar spark furious outcry from locals

UN report highlights S.Sudan journalist treatment

Palestinian dies after being shot by Israeli soldiers

Gulf states urge Syria to end Ghouta violence

Wanted Bahraini militants die at sea en route to Iran

Saudi Arabia to boost entertainment in next decade

Iran's Ahmadinejad calls for immediate free elections

Merkel calls for end to 'massacre' in Syria

Iraq urges FIFA to lift ban on hosting internationals

Carnage of Ghouta's bombs breaking families

Blockaded Gaza Strip forced to pump sewage into sea