Iraqis protest treatment of minority Christians

AFP
Iraqis gather during a demonstration on July 24, 2014, against the threat imposed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadists against Christians in northern Iraq, outside the UN office in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region
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Iraqis gather during a demonstration on July 24, 2014, against the threat imposed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadists against Christians in northern Iraq, outside the UN office in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed)

Arbil (Iraq) (AFP) - Hundreds of people demonstrated Thursday in Arbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, to condemn the forced displacement of Iraqi Christians and call for their protection.

Muslims, Christians, displaced people and political parties took part in the protest outside UN offices in Arbil, some 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Baghdad.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was to fly to the city later on Thursday having earlier held talks in Baghdad.

"We condemn the targeting of Christians in Mosul," read one banner.

"We call on the international community to protect the Iraqi people," read another.

Thousands of Christians and other minorities have fled the northern city of Mosul and other areas after a jihadist onslaught led by Islamic State insurgents swept swathes of Iraq's north and west last month.

Mosul's new jihadist masters last week ordered the hundreds of Christian families living in Mosul to convert to Islam, pay tribute, or leave the city, prompting thousands to flee.

Those who failed to comply were threatened with execution, and the property of those who left the city were forfeited to the Islamic State, a statement from the group seen by AFP said.

"We have come to stand with you and say that what they do degrades the image of Islam and is not accepted by Islam," said Arbil religious leader Dilshad Marouf.

The protesters handed a letter to the UN, which included a demand that Iraq compensate displaced people and legislate to ban the sale or trade of property and goods seized from fleeing minorities.