(CNN) — When ISIS overran their villages near Mosul in August 2014, a small group of Assyrians, a Middle Eastern minority with a history reaching back more than 4,000 years, picked up weapons and formed their own militia: Dwekh Nawsha -- "The Sacrificers."
Assyrians belong to the rapidly dwindling Christian population of Iraq -- recent estimates from CAPNI, the largest Christian relief organization in northern Iraq put the number as low as 300,000 compared with 1.5 million 20 years ago -- and many among them see the fight with ISIS as a final battle for survival against the Islamists.
"'Ah, Assyrians -- I've read about them in the Bible,' is what many people say," says Marcus Naissan, a 25-year-old electrical technician and member of Dwekh Nawsha. "But we are not just history, we are still alive, we are still here."
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