The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have served the Christian community in Mosul since 1877. In recent days, they have been keeping their order and the world informed of the horrifying situation there.
As you perhaps know, concerning the situation in Mosul, the Islamic State has a policy in governing the city. After displacing the Christians, they started their policy concerning the holy places that angered people. So far, the churches are under their control; crosses have been taken off. But we are not sure about the extent of the damaged done in them. In addition to that, few mosques have been affected, too. The ISIS destroyed two mosques with their shrines last week: the mosque of Prophet Sheeth (Seth) and the mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, said to be the burial place of Jonah. The militants claim that such mosques have become places for apostasy, not prayer. This was really too painful for all people as Jonah’s shrine was considered as a monument. Also, it was a historical place as it was built on an old church. Destroying such places is a destruction of our heritage and legacy.
Besides, ISIS is setting some rules that even Mosul residents cannot tolerate. Like forcing young people to join them, preventing women to go out, and enforcing the strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The Sisters did not, at that time, feel as if they were in imminent danger. Four days later, things changed.
You might be surprised that we are writing this letter so soon since you received the last one. But events are happening so quickly here shocking everybody because of its brutality and cruelty. On the night of the Feast of Transfiguration shooting started after mid-night, and continued until noon of the next day. On the morning of the sixth of June many shells fell on Karakosh. Between 8:30 and 9:00 a shell fell on a house and it killed two boys (nine and five years old) who were playing in the garden; and it also killed a 37 year-old woman who was trying to pull water from the pipes. This caused many people to leave the town for their lives. On the afternoon almost all people who remained went out for the funeral of the victims at the church. Although atmosphere of the funeral was sad and calm, it was obvious that people were scared of something would happen.
On the seventh of August we gradually started to understand that the Peshmerga, who were supposed to protect Karakosh, were pulling out, leaving the town unprotected. Everybody was shocked because Kurdish government promised to defend Karakosh, and the other Christian towns. At the same time, ISIS started to get closer to Karakosh and the residents stared to leave the town. As a community, in no time we were to prepare to leave; we took the least with us unaware of what to take and unable to comprehend what was really happening. There were thirty sisters left Karakosh in three cars, and two families accompanied us, as they had no place to go. Three Franciscan sisters came with us, too. When we left the convent, we were surprised to see a big number of people leaving the town on foot. Moreover, it was strange to see only very few guards at the checkpoint when we were leaving the town.
After a 10 hour trip that normally takes less than 2 hours, they arrived in Erbil, trying to find a place to stay and to help other refugees. Here is what the Sisters ask of us:
You may ask what the world can do for us. We would say, stop the blood, stop the oppression, and stop violence. We are human beings here; stop making us target for your weapon. The world needs to stand as one to protect minority against the evil and injustice. People want to live normal life in peace and dignity. Please help us out to stop the evil.