BEIRUT

Middle East

France to facilitate asylum for Iraq's Christians

Iraqi displaced families, who fled violence in the northern city of Tal Afar, gather at Khazer refugee camp near the Kurdish checkpoint of Aski kalak, 40 km west of Irbil on July 27, 2014. (AFP/Safin Hamed)

PARIS: France said Monday that it was ready to welcome Christians from northern Iraq who have been told by the Al-Qaeda offshoot group now ruling the region to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death.

Islamic State insurgents seized large swaths of northern Iraq last month, prompting hundreds of Christian families in Mosul to flee a city that has hosted the faith since its earliest years.

"We are providing aid to displaced people fleeing from the threats of Islamic Sate and who have sought refuge in Kurdistan. We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil," France's foreign and interior ministers said in a joint statement.

"We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier this month condemned the treatment of the Christians and instructed a government committee to help those made homeless. However, he has not said when the army might try to win back control of Mosul.

Islamic State has warned all women in Mosul to wear full-face veils or risk severe punishment. The Sunni insurgents, who have declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, also view Iraq's majority Shiites as infidels who deserve to be killed.

 

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