WASHINGTON – As it expels Christians who have been in northern Iraq for almost 2,000 years, the al-Qaida splinter group ISIS, which also calls itself Islamic State, is beginning to look a lot like previous Muslim conquerors in the region, most notably Tamerlane, who wreaked havoc over populations from Central Asia to Moscow.
This 14th-century leader, originally from Uzbekistan, sought to restore the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan by putting non-Muslims to the sword. Similarly, Islamic State now is demanding that Christians in Iraq convert, pay fees for “protection” or be killed.
The group’s edict last week includes the destruction of Christian holy sites and the eviction of monks from the ancient monastery Mar Behnan, which was founded in the 4th century by Syriac Catholic monks. It is near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh.
The monks were told they “have no place here anymore,” were refused permission to save some of the monastery’s relics and were ordered to leave on foot with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.
This latest purge of religions other than the extremist Wahhabi beliefs of the Sunni Islamist State jihadists comes as the Islamic State seeks to establish a caliphate under Islamic law from eastern Syria into northern and central Iraq, with designs on Jordan, the rest of the Levant and even Saudi Arabia.
Thousands of Christian families have been expelled from the area, forced to abandon their homes and belongings.
Although it is in a predominantly Sunni region, Mosul is considered one of Iraq’s principal locations for Christians.
However, since the eviction order from Islamic State, there are no more Christians in the region of Mosul.
At one time, the Christian population in Iraq exceeded 1 million. Some Christian towns have actually come under the protection of Kurdish peshmerga forces who moved into the area as Islamic State began its invasion of Iraq.
The targeting of Christians, however, isn’t new to Iraq. During the U.S. occupation from 2003 to 2011, Sunni insurgents regularly targeted Iraqi Christians, killing clerics and bombing churches.
Shiites and other groups similarly have been expelled from the region, and they have been the target of summary executions. The treatment by Islamic State also is said to be harsher toward Shiites and other Muslims whom it regards as “infidels.”
As WND recently reported, IS appears to be attempting to replicate a takeover of lands that were under the Islamic empire that arose shortly after the death of Muhammad, Islam’s founder.
Tamerlane, or Timur, especially, went after Christians in Armenia and Georgia as he extended his rule from Central Asia into the Middle East and as far as Moscow.
In fact, Timur invaded Georgia some eight times throughout his 35-year reign. In addition to killing the residents, he took some 60,000 of the local people captive as slaves, depopulating many of the areas. Thousands of them were women, who were taken to be sex slaves.
Timur also invaded Baghdad and massacred some 20,000 of its citizens. His methods were so severe he insisted that his soldiers return with at least two severed human heads to show him.
IS similarly continues to behead its victims and put them in piles for public display.
According to historical accounts, Timur was so brutal that even Muslim writers complained that his army acted like a horde of savages against the citizens it conquered.
At one point in Smyrna, Timur captured the city located on the Aegean coast of Anatolia, which was the stronghold of the Christian Knights Hospitalers, gaining the title of Warrior of Islam
In Baghdad, he had 90,000 people beheaded to build towers with their skulls.
In Sivas, Turkey, he promised no bloodshed if the inhabitants surrendered but buried 3,000 prisoners alive then explained that he kept his word.
Historians say his actions were meant to strike terror in his opponents as he justified his actions against Christians as being true to his Muslim faith. He even slaughtered fellow-Muslims, claiming they were “bad Muslims.”
In all, Timur’s conquests are said to have caused the deaths of some 17 million people. Many were Christians, but they also included, like the Islamic State, any religious believer who didn’t submit to his newly formed caliphate.
Considered to be one of history’s most brutal butchers, this warrior of Islam, also known as the Scourge of God, also cemented victims in walls, massacred them on the battlefield and sliced them in two at the waist.
Also, Timur had his victims beheaded, trampled to death by horses or hanged if they didn’t convert to Islam on the spot, much as Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is requiring of Christians and other “infidels” as he establishes his caliphate.