On August 7, 2014, the Assyrian Christian town of Bartella, Iraq was seized by ISIS in a matter of minutes as most of the city fled to Erbil the night prior.
On August 8, ISIS burned liquor stores, looted houses and food stores, hung their flags on the church walls, pulled down the crosses and demanded the few remaining Christian locals of either converting to Islam, staying in the city and paying a yearly tax of $200 or face the “death by the sword” if refused to convert or pay.
In late August and early September 2014, it was reported that three residents of the few remaining Assyrian Christians died. One disabled, the other due to illness and old age and the third one was tortured then killed after he refused to convert to Islam. The last 12 residents were able to flee the city.
On October 20, 2016, as part of the Iraqi government offensive to retake Mosul, the Assyrian Nineveh Plain Protection Units and Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) liberated Bartella from ISIL control.
After the liberation, church bells rang throughout the city for the first time in more than two years.
Before the ISIS invasion, Bartella’s population was around 30,000, with the majority being Assyrian, one-third of which is Syriac Catholic and the rest, Syriac Orthodox.