An elderly Christian man living in Raqqa, Syria, faced forced conversion to Islam as he can no longer afford to pay the minority or jizya tax, a penalty enforced by the Islamic State to minorities living under its jurisdiction.
In a video posted by the terror group’s Amaq news platform, a man identifying himself as Mostafa Abu Alzer recites the “Shahada,” the declaration required to enter the Islamic faith, while also stating that his conversion is of his own free will.
While the majority of Christians have fled Raqqa and other parts of Syria over the last three years, Abu Alzer remained behind to protect his home, opting at the time, to pay the minority tax, according to Syrian sources.
In an ironic twist of fate, the man appears to have been used as a poster boy for an ISIS film released last year, “Until there came to them clear evidence,” a video featuring church demolitions, executions and interviews with the ‘lucky’ Christians who have been able to afford the Jizya tax.
“We paid Jizya, the one who comes to Raqqa (after paying Jizya) does not have to worry, whether he is Christian or even Jewish,” Abu Alzer says, looking into the camera.
There are approximately 25 Christian families left in Raqqa today, who are forbidden from leaving, according to the group Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered, comprised of former journalists turned activists.
Raqqa, now the de-facto Syrian headquarters of the Islamic State, fell into rebel control in March 2013 in a battle between insurgents led by the Islamist jihadi group Al Nusra and Bashar Al Assad’s regime. Raqqa then became the first provincial capital under rebel control in the war.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, thousands of Christians and other minorities have been forced from their homes both by Islamist rebels fighting Bashar Al Assad’s regime and Islamic State militants.
In areas controlled by ISIS, Christians have been given three options—to convert to Islam, to pay a minority tax or jizya or to face death.
The Foreign Desk exclusively reported on the kidnapping of hundreds of Christians in the Syrian province of Hassakeh in February 2015.
In 2014, ISIS published a list of seven restrictions that Christians in Raqqa had to follow in order to live under Caliphate rule.
In it, Christians were contractually obliged to pay the jizya, or minority tax, which in Islamic Sharia law is the amount of money paid by non-Muslims or “dhimmis” in exchange for protection.
The jizya was last enforced under the Ottoman Empire and since, only brought back by the Islamic State.
In addition, Christians living under ISIS are not permitted to build any new churches, religious facilities, nor are they allowed to repair existing ones, cannot publicly show any crosses, pray or recite the Bible in public, are prohibited from any acts of aggression against the Islamic State, are forbidden from stopping the conversion of any Christian to the religion of Islam and cannot sell pork products or alcohol to any Muslims nor consume these products, forbidden in Islam, in public.