Jizya taxation has driven Christian families out of their villages in northern Syrian and into Jordan according to Martin Janssen, a Dutch missionary living in Amman. The Syrian refugees describe the marauders as “bearded strangers”—an indication that Salafist fighters have penetrated into the Syrian countryside.
How the jizya collections have been spent was not discussed, but such revenues are normally used by jihadists to buy more weapons and supplies. Under classical Islamic tax law, money collected from jizya and kharaj taxation is used to provision the army of the caliphate.
Eventually, the jizya demands in northern Syria increased to the point where Christian residents could no longer pay—they eventually fled or were murdered for non-payment, with only three of 30 families from one village reportedly surviving.
…My interlocutors this evening were almost all from northern Syria. They came from Idlib, Aleppo and villages in the countryside between the two cities. Their testimony was unanimous. Many of these villages had a large Christian presence until a few years ago, but now Christians no longer lived there. Jamil, an elderly man, told the following story during which other attendees began to nod violently in agreement. They appeared to have experienced exactly the same things.
Jamil lived in a village near Idlib where 30 Christian families had always lived peacefully alonside some 200 Sunni families. That changed dramatically in the summer of 2012. One Friday trucks appeared in the village with heavily armed and bearded strangers who did not know anyone in the village. They began to drive through the village with a loud speaker broadcasting the message that their village was now part of an Islamic emirate and Muslim women were henceforth to dress in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Sharia. Christians were given four choices. They could convert to Islam and renounce their “idolatry”. If they refused they were allowed to remain on condition that they pay the jizya. This is a special tax that non-Muslims under Islamic law must pay for “protection”. For Christians who refused there remained two choices: they could leave behind all their property or they would be slain. The word that was used for the latter in Arabic (dhabaha) refers to the ritual slaughter of sacrificial animals.
After Jamil had finished his story a gloomy silence descended. I asked him how the 30 Christian families in his village had perished since then. He replied that a number of families – including his own family – had initially opted to pay jizya. When the leader of the armed militia in their village, however, noticed that they were able to do this, the amount kept increasing in the following months. Like almost all other Christian families he eventually fled the village. His land and farm were lost. Some Christian families in his village who were unable to escape or pay the jizya converted to Islam. To his knowledge, there were no Christians killed in his village, but he had heard other stories from a neighboring village where only three Christian families survived. They were all murdered in the middle of the night…