Iraqis are taking to the streets and to social media to protest the persecution of Christians by the Islamic State — the fringe extremist group formerly known as ISIS.
Since the group seized control of about a third of Syria and a significant portion of Iraq, the Islamic State has forced Iraq’s Christian population living within its territory to either convert or leave. Its members have marked Christian houses with the Arabic letter “nun” (ن), in reference to the word “Nazarene,” an old Arabic word for Christian.
In response, Iraqis have launched social media campaigns protesting the Islamic State, and the hashtags #WeAreN, and #IamNasrani have been trending on Twitter this week. Another hashtag, #NO2ISIS, has been launched to protest the Islamic State for instigating sectarian violence between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims. These hashtags have been tweeted more than 55,000 times, with the majority of tweets coming from the Middle East. Iraqi Muslims have also used the Arabic hashtags “I am Iraqi; I am Christian,” and many have changed their Facebook and Twitter profile photos to a picture of the letter ن.
Despite the danger, the protests have swept the streets, with Iraqi Muslims and Christians participating together in marches and mobilizations. Street artists have also sprayed graffiti on the marked houses, turning the single letter ن into the Arabic phrase: “We are all Christians.” As the United States reputedly weighs airstrikes as a response to the religious persecution, Iraqis continue to plan solidarity protests and marches to protest the Islamic State.