Inside, the signs of jihadist control. Not even the crucifix spared. The Christians were forced to flee or to convert. The offensive to regain control of Mosul continues.
Mosul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Freeing al-Dawasa neighborhood of Mosul, Iraqi forces discovered a Christian church that was used as a base by Isis militiamen. The church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Um al-Mauna) no longer bears any sign of its Christian past: not a single crucifix or statue survived, replaced with posters and symbols from the Daesh.
The sign above the door, "the Chaldean Catholic Church", together with the altar of gray marble testify to the original function of the building. The ocher exterior walls reads an entry ban written by Islamic State religious police. The militias have tried to eliminate the crosses, damaging a stone and ripping the metal door off its hinges.
Inside there are empty niches and the base of a statue, originally decorated with yellow and red flowers. The walls are engraved with the war names of Daesh fighters.
Posters put up on the marble columns help understand life in the Islamic state. One of them shows the 14 rules to live in Mosul under the Jihadi command, including the requirement for women to dress modestly and to appear in public only "if necessary." On the floor covered with debris, a leaflet was found listing the corporal punishments for those guilty of theft, alcohol consumption, adultery and homosexuality. The explanations are accompanied by violent representative images.
The church was liberated this week by the Iraqi army during the offensive for the complete recapture of Mosul. The city was an important bastion for Daesh militants, but now they are losing control. Already this January, Baghdad forces recovered the eastern area of the city. Sources claim that five jihadists were found dead outside the church.
Isis forces had taken the city in June 2014, forcing the members of the Christian community to choose between converting to Islam, paying a special tax, fleeing or being killed. A few weeks later, they devastated Qaraqosh in the plain of Nineveh, where it is believed 120 thousand Christians once lived, forcing them to flee.
The Chaldeans are the majority of Iraqi Christians, but their number has decreased drastically: before 2003 they exceeded one million, there are now less than 350 thousand.
According to Colonel Abdulamir al-Mohammedawi the Islamic state controlled Mosul from the church, forcing residents to comply with the rules and follow in their extremist ideologies.
The church is in better condition than the rest of the neighborhood. In a shopping street, the flashy shop windows are now nothing more than iron folded on itself and debris.