Baghdad (AINA) -- The crisis for the Assyrian community in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood is deepening. Islamists are systematically targeting the Christian Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs), forcing them to pay the jizya (AINA 4-17-2007, 3-18-2007), a "protection" tax demanded by the Koran, or convert within 24 hours or be killed. Dora is located 10 kilometers southwest of Baghdad.
Families are abandoning their homes and seeking refuge in Churches:
- 14 families have fled to the Al-So'ud Chaldean Church.
- 7 families have fled to Saint Odisho Assyrian Church. 3 families are in the church and 4 in the Saint Adai Patriarchate, the old church building.
- An unknown number of families have fled to Saint George Chaldean Church.
Islamic groups are preventing families from bringing any belongings as they flee their homes.
Hatem Al-Razaq, the sheik of the Al-Noor mosque in Dora, has toured Dora, visiting each Assyrian family and instructing them to pay 250,000 Iraqi dinars ($190), saying this sum is the jizya because "you are not Muslims." Families that cannot pay this sum are told to send one family member to the mosque on Friday to announce their conversion to Islam. Families who refuse to do this must leave their homes immediately and not take any of their belongings with them because "your properties belong to the mosque."
Families that do not leave and do not convert are threatened with death.
In a report by the Catholic News Agency (AINA 5-18-2007), Mar Addai II, the Patriarch of the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East, says "Only the families that agree to give a daughter or sister in marriage to a Muslim can remain, which means that the entire nuclear family will progressively become Muslim." Also, Assyrian families are forced to turn over their homes as ransom for their kidnapped relatives.