The beheadings and shootings publicised by the group are the latest assault on minorities across the Middle East, thousands of whom have been forced to abandon their ancestral homes to flee the group’s broadening reach in the region.
It follows a video released in February that showed the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on the shores of the Mediterranean, a move that prompted air strikes by the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi against the group’s stronghold in a Libya torn by civil strife that has enabled Isis to entrench.
The footage released yesterday depicts the beheading of 15 Ethiopian Christians by masked Isis militants, their blood staining the surf on a strip of beach. In another scene in a desert landscape, masked gunmen shoot another 15 Ethiopians in the back of the head with rifles.
“To the nation of the cross, we’re back again,” says a masked militant in the video before the execution. “Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap. We swear to Allah … you will not have safety even in your dreams until you embrace Islam.”
Ethiopia denounced the murders. “We strongly condemn such atrocities, whether they are Ethiopians or not,” said Ethiopian communications minister Redwan Hussein.
The 29-minute video, titled “Until there came to them clear evidence”, appeared primarily aimed at offering religious justification for the targeting of Christians, saying their slaughter is permitted if they refuse to convert to Islam or decline to pay a protection tax in lands where the terror group holds sway.
It also sought to depict Christians living in areas under its control as being treated respectfully and fairly by its courts.
Christians fleeing ancestral homes
Thousands of Iraq’s Christians fled their ancestral homes in the Nineveh plains last summer in the face of the lightning Isis offensive that swept through northern Iraq, fearing death or forced conversion.
Other minorities such as the Yazidis have also faced mass starvation and slavery at the hands of the terror group, which has ethnically cleansed large swaths of Iraq and massacred thousands.
It has also destroyed significant portions of the ancient heritage of Iraq’s Assyrian community – Shia and Christian shrines that Isis says are polytheistic and contrary to its brand of puritanical Islam.
The group’s rampage has all but ended millennia of coexistence between Iraq’s diverse communities.
The video, which features the same high production values common to the group’s media releases, with computer-generated scenes of old Islamic battles, begins by recounting the early history of Christianity and an outline of the schisms that led to the creation of the Coptic, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, as well as the development of Protestantism.
The video condemns the doctrine of the Trinity as a form of apostasy, and brands Christians as infidels. The narrator says Christians must pay the “jizya”, a protection tax imposed on them during the early Islamic conquests in Asia and Europe, or face slaughter.
An Isis cleric, Abu Malik Anas al-Nashwan, offered religious justifications for fighting non-Muslims, saying it is permitted if they refuse to convert to Islam or pay the protection tithe.
He says in the video that Christians in Raqqa, Islamic State’s capital in Syria, have refused to convert, but pay the jizya to the group, and its sharia courts rule on their disputes with Muslims. The video also features interviews with Christians living in areas under the group’s rule, who claim to be living in safety.
Al-Nashwan sought to justify the forced exodus of Iraq’s Christians, saying they refused to meet Isis representatives and the payment of the jizya. He portrayed their exodus as a mercy bestowed on them by Isis, which he said had chosen not to slaughter them instead.
The video then shows scenes of Isis fighters destroying churches, crosses and paintings depicting the Virgin Mary, before moving on to show the massacre of the Ethiopian Christians, indicating the price that religious minorities would have to pay for defying the group’s edicts.
Many Ethiopian Christians are members of the Coptic church, and travel to North Africa seeking employment or as a transit route to Europe.
“We tell Christians everywhere that the Islamic State will spread, God willing,” al-Nashwan says at the end of the video.
“It will reach you even if you are in fortresses. Those who embrace Islam or jizya will be safe. But those who refuse … will have nothing from us but the edge of the sword.
“The men will be killed, the women and children enslaved, and their money seized. That is Allah and the prophet’s judgment.” – Guardian News & Media 2015