Syrian Christians under ‘dhimmi’ in al-Raqqa

Armenian Church of the Martyrs in Raqqa. Under rebel control, it was turned into a mosque and proselytism center, flying the black flag of Al-Qaeda (ISIS)
Armenian Church of the Martyrs in Raqqa. Under rebel control, it was turned into a mosque and proselytism center, flying the black flag of Al-Qaeda (ISIS)

Note: Special thanks to our Levant Report contributor in Syria who sent this brief report.

One year ago, the Syrian opposition occupied a small city in eastern Syria called Al-Raqqa. They’ve announced this week the first contract of ZEMMEH ذمة (also “dhimmi”) with Raqqa’s Christians. This word means PROTECTION.
This contract of “protection” with Christians is the first of its kind in modern history. The practice of this contract originated in the era of Mohammad when his armies first occupied cities as they expanded out of the Arabian peninsula. The contract obliges Christians to choose from one of three options: 
  1. Convert to Islam.
  2. Stay Christian and pay extra taxes.
  3. Death by the sword.
According to various news reports, Christians in Al-Raqqa chose to pay extra taxes in order to stay Christian. However, they are not allowed to build churches or make any display of Christian symbolism such as iconography or the wearing of crosses. They are not allowed to sell or drink alcohol, or anything that violates Islamic codes. For example, women are obliged to wear the veil and even men are not allowed to dress in “tempting” clothes (T-shirts are considered tempting.)
Click on the image below to see an original version of the ZEMMEH currently circulating inside Syria. To learn more, see Syria Comment’s analysis.

3 thoughts on “Syrian Christians under ‘dhimmi’ in al-Raqqa

  1. The claims in this article are misleading. The fact is that ISIS is not associated with Syrian rebels. In fact, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are at war with ISIS, and FSA recently gave ISIS an ultimatum to leave Syria. ISIS are fighting in the interests of the Syrian dictator, Bashar al Assad. Ever since they took over eastern Syria, Assad stopped bombing the east with his warplanes. There is also proof that Iran finances the ISIS.

    Therefore, the Christians are being attacked by Iranian and Assad’s mercenaries.

    1. Thanks for commenting John. Please see this important article, which deals with the “ISIS as Assad’s mercenaries” claim:

      Up until somewhat recently, groups now associated with the “Islamic Front” were fighting in the same trenches with ISIS, and FSA was allied with the “allies of the allies” of ISIS. FSA commanders were not long ago praising ISIS for its effectiveness on the battlefield, and even joining in limited operations with them. The Syria Comment link above chronicles past FSA-ISIS cooperation.

      You are right to point out that the specific group behind the dhimmi contract in Raqqa is ISIS, but their fighting Nusra and others makes them no less part of what can generally be called the opposition. If al-Nusra or other Islamic Front groups were in charge of Raqqa, do you think things would be any better for the Christians?

      At the end of the day, the FSA is hardly a reality anymore – it is basically a command structure that’s kept in place for the sake western backing. It’s meant to perpetuate the illusion of “moderate rebels” as opposed to the “bad rebels” (ISIS). But the reality on the ground is hundreds of groups with various agendas, all with varying shades Islamist extremist ideology.

      Again, you are right to desire a clearer definition as to whom “the opposition” in this article refers. But really, what is the “Syrian opposition” anymore? In terms of military strength it is ISIS and Nusra. Neither of these groups is good for Syria, or good for anyone.

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