Iraqi Christian who fled ISIS: 'Faith is all we have left'

A Christian student forced to flee Islamic State in Iraq said yesterday that "faith is all we have left that ISIS couldn't take from us".

A ISIS fighter waves his flag and weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014.Reuters

Speaking at a charity rally organised by Aid to the Church in Need, Sarmad Ozan, 20, told the story of how his family had been forced to flee ISIS in Mosul.

He is currently living in the UK and waiting for an appeal to go through after his asylum appliction was rejected.

"Islamic State took our city, our churches, our houses and women were sold into slavery like an object," he said to the crowd of more than 1,100 young people.

When ISIS overran Mosul in June 2014, Ozan said his family initially stayed in the city as they "had no place to go".

But they were ultimately forced to leave after militants gave Christians a 24-hour ultimatum to convert or leave. He described waking up to seeing his home, along with all the other Christian houses, marked with an N, meaning Nazarene.

"We went from having a good healthy meal on our table every night to having to beg for food every day," he said.

"Faith is all we have left that ISIS couldn't take from us."

His family were forced to trek miles in searing heat without food and water to Erbil, where they stayed at a church so overcrowded that many were forced to sleep outside, he said.

It was there that Ozan discovered he had been accepted to study for a masters in engineering in the UK.

He left his family and moved to the UK but his scholarship was withdrawn from the Iraqi government and he is now living within the UK asylum system.

He has not spoken to his family for more than a year.

"I miss them every day. I miss everything about my old life," he said.

"I feel safe in the UK. I can't go back, I don't have a home or any place in Iraq any more. My family were in Erbil when I left but I lost contact with them. They didn't have any food," he told The National.

The event was organised to inspire young people to "wake up" to the growing refugee crisis, said organiser Michael Robinson.

"It should not be split along political or faith lines, it is our responsibility as human beings to fight persecution and provide for the refugees in the Mediterranean."