An elderly Christian widow has opened up about the atrocities she endured under the Islamic State terrorist group, revealing jihadists forced her to spit on a crucifix, stamp on an image of the Virgin Mary, and threatened to kill her if she did not convert to Islam.
Zarifa Badoos Daddo, 77, told Reuters how, when ISIS overtook Qaraqosh - Iraq's largest Christian town - in 2014 and issued an ultimatum: pay a tax, convert to Islam, or die, most Christians fled the city. However, she remained with another elderly woman, having nowhere to go.
"I cried because I wondered where I would go," she said, speaking in a mix of Arabic and Syriac, an ancient dialect of the Aramaic language which Jesus spoke. "There was nobody left in Qaraqosh. We had no neighbors, nobody. They all left."
The militants provided the elderly woman with enough food to survive, but also made surprise visits to the house which left her crippled with fear.
"We were two women living by ourselves. They would come at night, sometimes they would come at four in the morning, so we were scared," said Daddo. "They would say, 'Sister don't be scared, we are your brothers. You are one of us now.'"
The militants took all the valuables from her house and threatened to kill her unless she gave them all of her money: "They came back another day and said, 'If you don't give us your money, we will empty this machine gun in your chest.'"
ISIS repeatedly tried to convert Daddo to Islam and forced her to desecrate her religion despite her pleas.
"They told me to spit on the crucifix. I was crying inside but I couldn't show it," she said. Then, the fighters demanded she stamp on an image of the Virgin Mary that she kept at home. "I said (to myself), 'Oh Mariam, I will step on you but you know I don't mean it'."
She continued: "My heart would race when they tried to get me to convert. They would try to get me to (say the Muslim declaration of faith). I told them I didn't know how to say it, and I said it in reverse."
Traumatized, Daddo yielded to the demands of the fighters: "I would say what they wanted. My life is dear to me so I said what I had to."
The elderly woman was reunited with her family in Erbil after Qaraqosh was recaptured from the jihadis last week by Iraqi coalition forces. She was reportedly found hiding in a house thought to be abandoned or booby-trapped with explosives.
Reuters reports that back in Erbil, sitting under an image of the Last Supper, Daddo said she was relieved to be back with family and friends after her traumatic experience. "What do you expect? Wouldn't you be happy? Now the whole world is happy."
The Telegraph reports that following the liberation of the ancient city, church bells rang out from the damaged bell tower for the first time in years and townspeople and troops erected makeshift wooden crosses on the roof of the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
On Sunday, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul celebrated mass in the town for the first time since its recapture: "Today Qaraqosh is free of Daesh [Isis]," Archbishop Moshe told worshippers.