A Chaldean Catholic church whose image announced the fall of Mosul in 2014 has been liberated.
When so-called Islamic State (ISIS) swept through Iraq in June 2014, a ‘before-and-after’ picture of the Church of Our Mother of Perpetual help in Mosul emerged showing the crucifix topping the building replaced by the black banner of the terror group. Reports at the time detailed how the Christian community desperately fled the city as ISIS rapidly imposed its rule there.
Now, liberating forces have revealed how the Perpetual Help became a central location for that rule. According to emerging reports, ISIS fighters quickly identified the church as an ideal location for their religious police and set up a headquarters there. That process involved the complete desecration of the church interior and destruction of all statues adorning the interior. Only the original altar is reported to have survived the wanton destruction.
Also surviving the rapid evacuation of the site ahead of the ongoing Iraqi army offensive is a document said to detail 14 key rules under which the remaining residents of Mosul were policed.
Not unexpectedly, there were harsh penalties meted out for smoking or drinking, and a prohibition on women being outdoors unless absolutely necessary. Some offences attracted a death penalty, while women baring too much flesh in public faced torture.
Troops entering the Perpetual Help reported that the 14 rules were individually spray-painted on the church’s interior columns as a reminder for all working at or detained in the building.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Abdulamir al-Mohammedawi of the elite Rapid Response Division, 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”.
The liberation of Our Mother of Perpetual Help came just days before the last road west from Mosul was finally cut by Iraqi forces, effectively trapping those ISIS forces who had not already fled.
However, far from signalling a quick end to the battle for Mosul, commanders have warned that ISIS fighters are expected to exploit the fact that some 600,000 civilians are also trapped in the city.