Syria crisis: ISIS imposes rules on Christians in Raqqa

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) marching in Raqqa, Syria The northern city of Raqqa was seized by ISIS fighters last year

A jihadist group in Syria has demanded that Christians in the northern city of Raqqa pay a levy in gold and accept curbs on their faith, or face death.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) said it would give Christian residents "protection" if they agreed to the list of conditions.

The announcement came in a statement posted online.

Correspondents say ISIS is trying to implement an extreme interpretation of Islamic law in areas it controls.

Raqqa, seized by ISIS last year, was the first provincial capital to be completely in the hands of rebels.

'Risking the sword'

The directive from ISIS, citing the Islamic concept of "dhimma", requires Christians in the city to pay tax of around half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety.

BBC map of Raqqa and Damascus in Syria

It says Christians must not make renovations to churches, display crosses or other religious symbols outside churches, ring church bells or pray in public.

Christians must not carry arms, and must follow other rules imposed by ISIS (also known as ISIL) on their daily lives.

The statement said the group had met Christian representatives and offered them three choices - they could convert to Islam, accept ISIS' conditions, or reject their control and risk being killed.

"If they reject, they are subject to being legitimate targets, and nothing will remain between them and ISIS other than the sword," the statement said.

A group of 20 Christian leaders chose to accept the new set of rules, ISIS said.

Raqqa was once home to about 300,000 people, with less than 1% Christian, according to AFP news agency.

Many Christians fled after ISIS started attacking and burning churches.

The group has been accused of serious abuses in the areas it controls.

Raqqa has seen fierce violence between ISIS and rival groups fighting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

More than 2,000 people are believed to have been killed since Western-backed and Islamist groups attacked ISIS strongholds in early January.

More on This Story

Syria conflict

From other news sites

More Middle East stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • SkeletonRobot skeleton

    BBC Future discovers how a pair of bionic legs helped get Daniel Fukuchi back on his feet

Programmes

  • Click reporter Jen Copestake looks at a smart mirrorClick Watch

    From the mirror offering beauty advice to next gen robot vacuums - the connected home of the future

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.