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Why the Middle East persecuted minority is making unholy choices
Half an ounce of gold. In the 7th century, that’s how much Christians in what is now Syria had to pay for the privilege of living under the protection of the Caliphate. If they didn’t want to pay, they had two other options: they could convert or, as some interpretations of the pact between Muslim rulers and their Christian subjects suggest, “face the sword.”
In February, the 20 or so Christian families still living in the northern Syrian town of Raqqa were given the same choice. The cost of protection is now the equivalent of $650 in Syrian pounds, a large amount for people struggling to make ends meet in a war zone. The other two options remain unchanged. This time the offer came from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), an extremist antigovernment group that seized Raqqa in May 2013 from more moderate rebel brigades and declared the town the capital of its own Islamic state.