The Times reports that when Islamic State militants swept across northern Iraq, the region’s Christians faced an ultimatum from the jihadists: leave, convert or die. However, as western-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces have started to reclaim their territory on the Nineveh plains, the Assyrians are asserting their right to a fourth way — self-rule.
Christian soldiers patrol the streets of the ancient town of al-Qosh. They are members of the Nineveh Protection Units (NPU), a new Christian militia that already has 500 fighters. More than 1,000 more are being trained by American security contractors at a nearby base, funded by the Assyrian diaspora in Europe and America.
If the more strident voices in the community have their way, these men will become the defenders of an autonomous mini-state for the Assyrians and Iraq’s other minorities.