Assyrian Christians hostages were told to convert to Islam

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by Staff Reporter
An Assyrian woman at a recent protest in Lebanon. (AP)
Two of the Assyrian Christian hostages released by ISIS have spoken to the media about their ordeal.
Some 200 Christians were taken by the Islamist group on February 23 after they stormed a number of villages in the north-east of the country.

One of the hostages, going by the name ‘Peter’, told the Times: “They entered our village at five in the morning, while everyone was sleeping. Some of them were Syrians, some were Chinese, some were Chinese, some Russian – people who didn’t speak Arabic. They took 17 men, three women and one young girl and put us on the back of pick-up trucks with our heads covered. We don’t know why they took us – we didn’t do anything,”

He saw the ISIS men looting their houses and setting fire to them.

Another hostage, named as ‘Robert’, told the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) that the hostages were placed in small rooms and asked to convert.

He said: “Many bearded people spoke to us, and everyone asked us to convert to Islam… They kept pressuring us to convert to Islam, it was their constant focus. But we were not mistreated.

“We said we would not convert. They said you must then pay the jizya or leave the country. That was the option given to us. We said we would pay the jizya but we would not convert.”

The European Syriac Union states that 17 members of the Syriac Military Council, an Assyrian militia fighting ISIS in Syria, are surrounded by the Islamists in the town of Tel Maghasneh. They have called for international help, stating that “allied air strikes are urgently needed”.

About 200 Assyrian Christians remain in captivity, two weeks after being kidnapped by ISIS.