The Islamic State group is forcing Christians in the Syrian territory it controls to sign a contract for dhimma (non-Muslims), restricting external expressions of their faith and agreeing to pay a jizya tax levied on those who do not follow Islam.
The Islamist organization controls swathes of Iraq and Syria, where some 10 million people live, according to a March 2015 assessment by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors the Arab media, says that the Islamic State’s media office in the Damascus province on Thursday published a photo report showing Christians in the town of Al-Qaryatayn in central Syria signing the contract, which it says requires signatories “to pay the jizya poll tax, abide by Islamic rules and refrain from certain activities.”
In exchange, MEMRI says, the contract offers certain protections for Christians, including a guarantee that they will come to no harm and will not be forced to convert. The contract adds that anyone found to be in violation of any of the articles in the 11-point contract will be “treated as a combatant.”
The clauses in the contract include a ban on Christians building churches, monasteries, or hermitages in the town or the environs; a ban on displaying the cross or any books in the Muslims’ streets or markets; and a prohibition against ringing church bells outside of their churches. The contract also warns against “any act of aggression against ISIS, such as giving refuge to spies and wanted men,” and demands that signatories report “any plot against Muslims.”
In addition, the contract states that “wealthy Christians must pay an annual jizya of four gold dinars; middle-class Christians must pay two gold dinars, and the poor must pay one.” The jizya can be divided into two payments, the contract says.
Further prohibitions reportedly include a ban on owning guns and on “commercial activity involving pigs or alcohol with Muslims or in Muslim markets.” Christians are also banned from drinking alcohol in public.
This is not the first time that IS has forced Christians who found themselves under its rule to sign such a contract. In February 2014, the Christians of the Syrian town of Raqqa signed a simmilar agreement with IS.
The Islamic State has notoriously targeted Christians and other non-Muslims in the territory it controls, including forcible conversions, seizing and destroying property and driving residents out of their homes. It has also systematically destroyed evidence of cultures other than Islam in those territories, most notably destroying ancient artifacts at Tadmor, or Palmyra, in Syria.