Terrorist group wants gold to protect Syria Christians
A Syrian terrorist group has demanded that Christians in a Syrian city it controls pay a gold levy, and curb displays of their faith in return for protection.
The so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) said that it would ensure Christians’ safety in exchange for the levy and their adherence to restrictions on their faith, Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday.
ISIL’s directive to Christians in the eastern city of Raqqa is the latest evidence of the group’s ambition to establish a state in Syria, a prospect that concerns Western and Arab backers of other terrorist groups active in the war-torn country.
It said Christians must not make renovations to churches or other religious buildings, display religious insignia outside of churches, ring church bells or pray in public.
The statement published online demanded every Christian man pay a tax of up to 17g of gold, a levy that was common in Arab states centuries ago.
The directive also bans Christians from owning weapons and from selling pork or wine or drinking wine in public.
Mainly composed of foreign terrorists, ISIL, has been fighting the Syrian government, and is also engaged in an armed struggle with rival terrorist groups.
A recent British defense study showed that about 100,000 militants, fragmented into 1,000 groups, are fighting in Syria against the government and people.
Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, Western powers and their regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey – are supporting the militants operating inside the country.
According to the United Nations, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria for over two years.
The UN also says more than four million other Syrians will be forced out of their homes in 2014 by the escalating conflict in the country.