BAGHDAD (dpa) – At least 160,000 Christians have been forced to flee Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, since Islamic State militants seized the city in June, a Christian lawmaker said on Saturday.
“Christian families have been displaced from the city because of violence and death threats from this terrorist group,” member of parliament Emad Yukhana told independent Iraqi news site Almada Press.
After the capture of Mosul as part of its incursion into northern Iraq, Islamic State ordered local Christians to convert to Islam, pay a protection tax, or face death.
Yukhana said few European countries, which he did not name, had taken in some of Iraq’s displaced Christians.
“The majority of Christians have taken shelter in Kurdistan,” he added, referring to Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdish region.
In August, the United States started an aerial campaign against Islamic State in Iraq after the al-Qaeda splinter group came close to Kurdistan’s capital city Erbil.
Other countries later joined the campaign against Islamic State that also controls considerable swathes of territory in western Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
There were about 1.2 million Christians in Iraq before the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, which overthrew longtime dictator Saddam Hussein, according to Iraqi clerics. That figure has since dwindled to about 500,000.