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The State Department on Monday condemned the treatment of Christians living in the Syrian city of Raqqa following an extremist Islamist group's edict that Christians either convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death.
In a statement, State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the decrees from the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL) — a group recently disowned by al-Qaeda and considered to be among the most radical fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad — "violate universal human rights."
"ISIL has demonstrated time and again its disregard for Syrian lives, and it continues to commit atrocities against the Syrian people," Psaki said.
A 12-point decree issued by the ISILordered Christians to pay a levy in gold and curb displays of their faith in return for protection from the group, according to a document obtained by NBC News.
“Christians should commit to pay Jizya (tax) on every adult male, the equivalent of 4 dinars of gold, (4.25 grams, about $180) on rich families, and half on middle class and half of that on poor families,” the document says. “They should not hide their income level and should pay in two installments per year.”
Ringing church bells, praying in public and displaying religious insignia have also been prohibited. The decrees also bar Christians from renovating churches or other buildings — even if they have been destroyed during the three-year civil war that has ripped Syria apart.