The Islamic State terror group has converted a Christian church in Mosul into a base for its religious police force, and it has plastered its walls with propaganda and documents that outlined the groups’ laws for the city’s residents.
As the operation to drive out ISIS from Mosul continues, the Iraqi forces have regained control of the Um al-Mauna (Our Mother of Perpetual Help) Chaldean Catholic Church in the Al-Dawasa district and the surrounding neighborhood last week.
Lt. Col. Abdulamir al-Mohammedawi of Iraq’s elite Rapid Response Division told AFP that the church served as “an important office for the authorities tasked with making sure (Mosul) residents had a beard, wore short robes and followed their extremist convictions.”
The exterior of the building has been defaced with ISIS propaganda, and all of its crosses and statues have been damaged or removed.
Inside the church, the militants plastered the marble columns with religious posters outlining the terror group’s laws as well as punishments for those who disobey.
The “town document,” which contains 14 rules for the city’s residents, stated that women should wear modest attire and should go out in public only “when necessary.” “The trade and consumption of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes is banned,” another rule stated.
One pamphlet enumerates the different forms of corporal punishment for crimes such as theft, alcohol consumption, adultery and homosexuality. Other posters found inside the church provide instructions on how to use a Kalashnikov rifle.
According to AFP, the Um al-Mauna church is still in better condition compared to the other buildings in the Al-Dawasa neighborhood, which was destroyed by the fighting. The once flashy shop facades on a street in the district have been reduced to contorted iron and shredded concrete.
Previous reports have revealed that ISIS had turned churches into “torture chambers” after it took over Mosul and much of the Nineveh Plains in 2015.
“Islamic State militants in Iraq are using Christian churches as torture chambers where they force Christians to either convert to Islam or die,” Christian Freedom International President Jim Jacobson said. “Islamic State militants are also stripping the former places of Christian worship of ancient relics which in turn are smuggled to Western collectors to help fund their terrorist activities,” he added.
ISIS fighters have been known to destroy ancient churches, monasteries, tombs and structures without regard for their historical significance as part of their quest to get rid of any evidence of Christianity in the region.