Christians and other minorities in Iraq are facing persecution at unprecedented levels and are at the verge of extinction, according to a report released by the Minority Rights Group, as they are suppressed and abused by the Islamic State which gained prominence in the area two years ago.
The Christian population has dwindled from 1.4 million to 300,000 in the last decade, according to some estimates. However, Minority Rights Group put that the number at anywhere between 50,000 to 250,000.
A report released by the United Nations in January said that about 19,000 people have been killed by ISIS in Iraq and over 3.2 million have been displaced since 2014, a recent report by the United Nations said, adding that atrocities perpetrated by the militant nation include severe war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The minorities have struggled to practice their faith in the region devastated by wars and overrun by extremists in the last few years.
Since ISIS became operational in 2014, atrocities and abuses against Christians increased manifolds, when they had to choose between converting to Islam, paying a high jizya tax, or fleeing to other regions. Many of them were also killed and enslaved.
"I wish I were in my hometown Mosul right now, but we can't come back to our areas and live with Daesh [ISIS caliphate]," said an Iraqi Christian refugee in Germany.
"We escaped from Mosul to Erbil (capital of Kurdistan Region) in August 2014," he said. "The fighting was ongoing between Daesh and the Peshmerga [military forces of Iraqi Kurdistan]. It was difficult to stay there as a Christian."
Earlier this year, ISIS released a video on social media showing a bonfire of a pile of Christian books, pamphlets and manuscripts in Mosul, the city they captured two years ago.
Thousands of minority women were kidnapped and forced into marriages and sex slavery.
The UK and European parliaments have declared ISIS violence against minorities as genocide, along with the U.S. Department of State.
ISIS committed horrendous acts of torture, maiming, and murders and did not spare the aged or the young. Eyewitnesses narrated accounts of children beheaded in front of their parents, Christians killed and crucified, people bulldozed, thrown from buildings, and burnt alive. The terrorist organization also killed thousands in bomb attacks and suicide bombings.
"The violence suffered by civilians in Iraq remains staggering. The so-called 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' continues to commit systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law," the UN report said.
"Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq," Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, UN's human rights chief, said in a statement.
"The figures capture those who were killed or maimed by overt violence, but countless others have died from the lack of access to basic food, water or medical care."