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.

 

Turkey, US agree to ‘work together’ in Syria

Fears of expanding Syrian war could trigger peace deal

Netanyahu warns Iran, brandishes piece of metal

66 feared dead as plane crashes in Iranian mountains

Students in Damascus brave shelling to attend school

Israeli, US officials meet over gas row with Lebanon

Iran's supreme leader says progress needed on justice

Syria Kurds claim striking positions in Turkey

Saudi women to open businesses without male permission

Netanyahu slams 'outrageous' Holocaust remark by Polish PM

Israeli air strikes kill 2 in Gaza

Six suffer breathing difficulties after Turkish shelling in Afrin

Russian mercenaries - a discrete weapon in Syria

Iran protests ban on wrestler who threw bout to avoid Israel

Battle to free Mosul of IS 'intellectual terrorism'

Turkey frees Garman-Turk journalist after one year without charge

Turkey hands life sentences to 3 journalists for Gulen links

Thousands protest corruption in Tel Aviv amid PM indictment call

Prominent jihadist commander killed by rival Syria rebels

300 Russians killed in Syria battle last week

Tillerson, Erdogan have ‘productive, open’ talk

Iran raises rates, freezes accounts in bid to shore up rial

Kremlin says five Russians killed in US Syria strikes

Oman FM in rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem

Senior IS leader extradited to Iraq from Turkey

Strikes hit another hospital in Syria's Idlib

Churches snub Jerusalem reception over tax dispute with Israeli authorities

Tillerson says US never gave 'heavy arms' to Kurdish YPG

Captured foreign IS suspects claim innocence

Yemeni mother awaits death penalty for spying for UAE

Fuel shortage shuts down Gaza's only power plant

Morocco arrests three suspected IS terrorists

Family of dead environmentalist in Iran threatened

Israel hands life sentence to Palestinian for triple murder

US appeals to Turkey to concentrate on fighting IS

Turkey sets up new 'observation point' in Syria's Idlib

Malaysia rejects criticism over Israeli visit

Tillerson in Ankara to ease Turkey tensions

Egypt arrests ex-presidential candidate

Tillerson: Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's 'political process'

Netanyahu says government ‘stable’ despite police recommending indictment

Corruption accusations facing Netanyahu

Syria denies ‘unacceptable’ chemical weapons use

Nations pledge nearly $25 billion toward Iraq's reconstruction

Egypt remands in custody former anti-corruption chief