Syria jihadists lay down rules for Christians

BEIRUT (AFP) - A jihadist group in Syria said Wednesday that Christians in the city of Raqa will have to pay taxes and hold religious rituals behind closed doors, under a set of rules.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), listed 12 rules which made up an "agreement" with Christians in the northern city to provide "protection." The terms, bearing the stamp of ISIL which controls Raqa, were distributed on jihadist forums.

They include a provision that Christians must pay a "jiziyeh" tax, as imposed in early Islam on non-Muslim subjects.

It said wealthy Christians must pay up the equivalent of 13 grams (half an ounce) of pure gold, that middle-class Christians pay half that sum, while the poor pay a quarter.

The agreement also demands Christians "do not put on display a cross or anything from their book, anywhere on Muslims' path or markets" and that they should not "use megaphones to make their prayers heard." Christians must also refrain from "holding any of their rituals... outside the church." The jihadist group demands that Christians follow "rules imposed by ISIL, such as those relating to modesty in clothing." ISIL is rooted in Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which also imposed the jiziyeh tax on Christians after the US-led invasion of 2003.

Raqa was once home to some 300,000 people, and less than one percent were Christian. Many Christians fled the city after ISIL started attacking and burning churches.

ISIL also said that Christians "must not restore any monasteries or churches... in their city or elsewhere in the vicinity." Christians must not carry arms, it said, warning that offenders of the rules would suffer "the fate that the people of war and rebellion faced." ISIL is accused of holding scores of people prisoner, including peaceful activists, rival rebels, foreign journalists and aid workers.

It is facing an all-out war by rival anti-regime forces in other parts of Syria.

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