A Timeline of ISIS Atrocities & Our Actions to Defend Christians Facing Genocide



July 15, 2016

9 min read

Persecuted Church



For years on end the world has watched in horror as the Islamic State (ISIS) has committed unspeakable atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities.  ISIS has systematically and ruthlessly taken over regions throughout the Middle East, demanding that Christians and others convert to Islam and bow the knee to the jihadist army. Christian men are being brutally murdered, women and children are being abducted and young girls are being sold as sex slaves to ISIS fighters.  The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) recognized these actions for what they are years ago – an attempt to exterminate Christians from the cradle of Christianity. Accordingly, we have been working since 2013 to protect the victims of ISIS and have continued to call on the international community to recognize the genocide of Christians and other religious minorities.

In the timeline below, you can see a sampling of the historically evil actions taken by ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities, and the actions we have taken and continue to take at the ACLJ to defend our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

Will you join us in advocating for our Christian brothers and sisters and the other religious minorities across the world who are facing genocide at the hands of ISIS?


  • April 18, 2013 – Before the rise of ISIS, the ACLJ draws attention to the worsening plight of Christians in Syria.


  • June 29, 2014 – ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate.
  • July 19, 2014 – ISIS takes over Mosul and other towns in Syria and gives an ultimatum to Christians: they must convert to Islam, pay jizya, or leave, and if they refuse they will die.
  • August 7th, 2014 – ISIS captured the primarily Assyrian Christian towns of Qaraqosh, Tel Keppe, Bartella, and Karamlish, prompting the residents to flee. More than 100,000 Iraqi Christians were forced to flee their homes and leave all their property behind after ISIS invaded Qaraqosh and surrounding towns in the Nineveh Plains Province of Iraq.
  • August 8, 2014 – Human Rights Office in Iraq reports ISIS has been burying hundreds of children and young people alive in Christian region of Mosul.
  • August 8, 2014 – After capturing the Iraqi town of Sinjar, ISIS fighters replace church crucifixes with ISIS flags. Christian leaders in the area also reported “systematic beheadings of children.”
  • August 12, 2014 – Reports surface of a 5-year-old Anglican Christian boy being cut in half by ISIS in Baghdad.
  • August 15, 2014 – Reports estimate that over 1,500 Christians and Yazidis have been abducted and forced to become sex slaves to ISIS fighters.
  • August 15, 2014 – In light of the recent attacks, the ACLJ began a petition to recognize the genocide and to protect the Christians in the Middle East.
  • August 19, 2014 – Journalist James Foley becomes first American citizen and American Christian to be executed by ISIS and was brutally killed via decapitation.
  • August 27, 2014 – The ACLJ filed a legal memorandum with the U.N. detailing ISIS’s assets, tactics, and atrocities, as well as condemning “the genocide of Christians being perpetrated by ISIS in Iraq.”
  • September 15, 2014 – The ACLJ released #1 New York Times bestseller, Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore, exposing the atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities.
  • October 2014 – A United Nations report confirmed that ISIS was holding 7,000 Yazidi women as sex slaves.


  • February 12, 2015 – ISIS released a video that appeared to show its militants in Libya beheading a group of Egyptian Christians who had been kidnapped in January.
  • February 23, 2015 – 1,500 ISIS fighters attacked a series of Christian towns in northeast Syria, burning churches, taking as many as 90 hostages, and forcing hundreds to flee from their homes. When ISIS fighters attacked the town of Tel Shamiram, they separated out the men, around 50 of whom they have taken into the mountains, and approximately 90 women and children are being held prisoner in the village by ISIS militants.
  • March 11, 2015 – ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations regarding “Protecting Religious Freedom Abroad” and stated that “[t]he heinous atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians . . . is nothing short of genocide.”
  • April 19, 2015 – ISIS released a video of militants from two of its Libya affiliates killing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting.
  • July 9, 2015 – Four children were killed when ISIS blew up the historic Mother of Aid church in Mosul.
  • August 2015 – Twelve Syrian Christians (including women and children) were brutally and publicly tortured and executed in village near Aleppo, Syria, because they refuse to convert to Islam. ISIS members cut off young boy’s fingers and beat him as they demanded his father and two other men renounce Christianity, before executing all four by crucifixion. Eight women were publically raped and beheaded for refusing to renounce Christ.
  • August 2015 – A Syrian Priest who was kidnapped by ISIS was ransomed to his family for $120,000. When his family paid the ransom, ISIS had his body chopped up and mailed back to his family instead of releasing him as promised.
  • August 18, 2015 – The ACLJ launched a targeted legal advocacy campaign through a petition to the Obama Administration urging the Administration – specifically Secretary of State Kerry – to recognize the genocide against Christians.
  • October 5, 2015 – The ACLJ joins a coalition of concerned non-governmental organizations and individuals by sending a letter to President Obama regarding the International Religious Freedom Roundtable. The letter requests that President Obama officially recognize ISIS’s actions as genocide.
  • October 8, 2015 – ISIS released video showing three of the Assyrian Christian men kidnapped in Khabur being executed. It was reported that 202 of the 253 kidnapped Assyrians were still in captivity, each one with a demanded ransom of $100,000.
  • December 18, 2016 – The ACLJ’s European-based affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), submitted an amicus brief to the European Court of Human Rights “to share testimony about the current genocide of Christians in Iraq at the hands of ISIS.”
  • December 30, 2015 – ISIS suicide bombings took place in Syria in three restaurants frequented by Kurds and Assyrian Christians, killing sixteen and injuring dozens.
  • Late 2015– ISIS bombed and demolished Iraq’s older monastery, St. Elijah’s, which had stood near Mosul for more than 1,400 years. Father Paul Thabit Habib, a Catholic priest said that Iraq’s “Christian history was ‘being barbarically leveled’. He added, “‘[W]e see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land.’”


  • February 5, 2016 – The ACLJ sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry regarding legal analysis of the law of genocide as applied to the atrocities being committed by ISIS against Christians
  • February 15, 2016 – Through the ECLJ, the ACLJ submitted a written statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council, requesting that the U.N. join other international bodies and publically proclaim that Christians in Iraq and Syria are victims of genocide and deserving of international assistance and protection.
  • March 4, 2016 – Multiple gunmen linked to ISIS killed 18 people at a nursing home founded by Mother Teresa and run by Christian nuns in Yemen.
  • March 11, 2016 – The ECLJ presented an oral statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) asking the HRC to condemn the genocide against Christians.
  • March 14, 2016 – A bipartisan resolution that was drafted in 2015 passes the House of Representatives. The resolution finally declares the atrocities committed by ISIS are “genocide”.
  • April 22, 2016 – The ACLJ launches its seven-point, multipronged legal advocacy effort to stop the genocide and protect Christians.
  • April 28, 2016 – The ACLJ sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon requesting that the U.N. formally recognize that ongoing atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians as genocide.
  • May 19, 2016 – The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passes a bill containing several key recommendations that Dr. Sekulow proposed during his March 11, 2015 testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.
  • May 23, 2016 – The ACLJ sent a second letter to Secretary of State John Kerry to thank him for declaring ISIS’s atrocities as “genocide against . . . Christians” and also requesting that he use his position to mobilize the international community to stop the genocide and protect the victims.
  • May 27, 2016 – The ACLJ submitted a written Statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council requesting that the U.N. “recognize the ISIS atrocities against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities as genocide and take immediate appropriate action.”
  • June 6, 2016 – The ACLJ sent a letter to United States Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power thanking her for her consistent stance against genocide. The letter also urged her to “continue and intensify” efforts to mobilize the international community to stop the genocide against Christians and others religious minorities by ISIS.
  • June 7, 2016 – A twelve-year-old Christian girl was burned to death in her own home by ISIS terrorists in Mosul, Iraq.
  • June 16, 2016 – The ACLJ sent letter to the 47 Member States of the U.N. Human Rights Council regarding the upcoming genocide discussions at the Council’s June meeting and asking for their support in naming ISIS’s actions “genocide”. Some of the contacted Member States mention genocide as the ACLJ encouraged, which shows the progress being made within the international community to stop these hate-filled actions by ISIS.
  • June 22, 2016 – The ECLJ delivered an oral intervention at the U.N. on behalf of Christian victims of genocide and urged U.N. Human Rights Council to declare ISIS’s atrocities as genocide against Christians.

The ACLJ will continue fighting around the world to stop the historic injustices facing Christians. Join us by signing our petition below.