The Islamic State(IS) is a self-acclaimed state of government which declares sovereignty of muslim communities all over the world. Grown out of al-Qaeda in Iraq(AQI) in April 2013, the jihadist military group aims at creating new provinces to erase the Iraq-Syria border by carrying out terrorist attacks.
Unlike other terrorist groups, the IS is close to modern bureaucracy. It has several ministries maintain daily operations of the state in terms of health, education, environmental policies and religious rulings.
Apart from providing vaccination which Taliban banned, the terrorist group also provides certificates for babies who were born in their hospital. The governing authority’s stamp marks as, however, The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Education is another tactic of the IS to legitimize their governing position. In the last summer, Mosul, the second largest city of Iraq , was took over by the military group in order to get strategic advantage of building their “emperor”.
The group completely changed the education policy of Mosul University after shutting it down for about four months. While subjects related to democracy and political thought, hotel management and tourism along with archaeology would be banned, basic subjects such as reading, writing, mathematics and religion would be taught. However, the IS required male and female students should be separated, forcing female students to study from 9 am to 2pm while males will study in the following 4 hours after girls.
To further affirm their authority in Iraq, the Islamic extremists have destroyed Ancient statues in Mosul museum, which are 3,000-year-old artworks about Syrian history. The action showed that the IS wanted to eradicate the ancient historical root of the region to strengthen the ruling power of the IS. It is a propaganda showing the superiority of the jihadist group to destroy ancient human civilisation. While the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) condemns the terrorists as “their strategy to destabilize and manipulate population”, no further actions could be taken to stop them from destroying the cultural heritage which is protected by the UN.
The extremist group claims to extend their influence in several European countries, the Arabic countries, the Caucasus countries and even the US. According to an IS defector, there are 70% foreigners and 30% Syrians within the organization.
On the other hand, according to the Central Intelligence Agency, there was about 30,000 IS fighters including local supporters in late 2014. Few months later, it is estimated that there were around 20,000 overseas supporters of the IS from 90 different countries who left their homes and flew to Syria in order to join the Islamic group, according to Nicolas Rasmussen, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Among the surging number of foreign terrorist fighters, 3,400 of them are believed to be from Western countries, including more than 150 of them are US citizens.
Reactions of affected countries
The Saudi government joined the military action with the US against the IS in Syria last year. The authorities said there is a growing concern about the islamic group inspiring Saudi-based terrorists to challenge its government’s legitimacy and try to overthrow it. In the last summer, Riyadh, the largest city and capital of Saudi Arabia, mobilized 30,000 troops to strengthen security along its border with Iraq, the country which is seriously affected by the extremist group.
The Jordanian military doubled its number of troops along the border with Iraq as the IS threatened to erase the borders of Jordan. Allied with the US, Jordan joined an air strike operation with the US and several Arab countries on the Islamic rebels in Syria last year, claiming this is an act to protect its border. Some 2,000 civilians from Jordan were believed to have travelled to Syria to fight against the terrorist group in the past few years.
The Iranians have played a significant role in combating the IS extremist group. They have Revolutionary Guards to give professional analysis for Iraqi security forces, air strikes carried out by Iranian pilots and mobilisation of Shia militia backed by Iran. Iran has also been delivering weapons and strategists to Iraqi Kurdistan to withstand the military influence of the IS.
With a strong opposition on Islamic groups in the country, the United Arab Emirates was reported to carry out air strikes on the IS in Iraq before the joined Arab countries military operation with the US in Syria last September. But according to US officials, the oil country terminated its coalition force after the Jordanian pilot was captured.
Qatar is suspected to provide financial support for the Islamic rebels, according to Iraq’s Shia leaders. Yet, the Doha authority supported Al-Udeid Air Base, a US-led facility which carry out attack and surveillance missions to combat with the terrorist issue.
As a country lying between Europe and Middle East, Turkey takes an active role in defeating the Islamic rebels in Iraq and Syria. Concerning its geographical proximity to Syria, there are more than 450 foreigners who have been detained or deported as they wanted to join the Islamic rebels. While the Turkish authority refused to sign an agreement on cooperating with the West and other Middle East states to encounter the terrorist group, the authority claimed to save 49 Turkish citizens who were kidnapped by the jihadist group in Mosul last June following a rescue operation by Turkish intelligence.
Dealing with influx of refugees from war zones in the Middle East countries along with killing and kidnapping of Lebanese security personnel, Lebanon suffered from a series of suicide bombings in its largest city and capital Beirut. Even though the Lebanese authority hasn’t joined the US-led coalition operation against the IS, it has received advanced military weapons from the US to allow Lebanese army to defend their own territory under the harsh climatic conditions in Lebanon.
Hells Angels, a German motorcycle gang group, has pledged to support the Kurds and travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight against the German Islamic rebels in those countries. It is believed that there are around 400 German jihadists who joined the IS. However, referring to Germany’s domestic intelligence service (BfV), it is illegal to join the Kurdish Workers’ Party since it is banned as a terrorist organization in Germany.
Where does the money come from?
As the British Broadcasting Corporation(BBC) suggested in a documentary, the Islamic State is the “World’s Richest Terror Army”. Approximately, the IS made $3 million a day from various financial resources such as selling oil, ransoming, human trafficking, and extortion. It was also suggested that the group had a total worth of more than $2 billion. Getting a monthly ‘salary’ of more than Syrian rebel groups or the Iraqi government can offer, the jihadists are paid around $400 per month. The money was moved in cash since there were no cheques.
Besides, referring to the US officials, the military group earned not less than $20 million last year from ransoms paid for hostages. Several French and Spanish journalists were good points of illustration. The Iraq Energy Institute also showed that the IS manages to have some 300 oil wells in Iraq.
Analysis: Why the Islamic State?
The rise of Islamic State imposes a challenge to the existing world order, but it also reflects a disequilibrium of power distribution between the West and several Middle East countries. Comical it may sound, the US claims the Islamic State as one of the greatest threat to its own country, yet in the eyes of some of the extremists, the Americans should be blamed for their cultural imperialism.
Let alone the dominance of military presence of the US across the globe, its entertainment industry and mass media distribution also shaped the ‘universal values’ of ordinary lives. Capitalism and the ideas of freedom somehow contradicts with the traditional islamic values, yet the voices of the opposition could barely be heard since the US dominates both economic and military sectors. If direct confrontation is not an option for the radical Islamic population, then the attack aiming at creating a sphere of fear would be a tactic used by the jihadists.
This is only one of the causes for the rise of terrorism in general, though. The rapid expansion of the IS illustrated its success in operation and recruitment of fighters. More than suicide bombings and kidnappings, the group strategically make use of mass media and social media to promote their ideology, which is stigmatized by the Western media. Given the advancement of social media management, it becomes a world-known terrorist group as Twitter allows the information flows around the globe. Moreover, thanks to the Western media, now everyone knows about the massive killings and ransoming messages delivered by the terrorists as the mainstream media constantly display violent and bloody scenes about the terrorist group. This is a propaganda which the media should be responsible of filtering.
In spite of the fact that it is journalists’ duties to report the truth to the public, the mass media should uphold the ground of ethical principles to be a responsible news agency. In this case, the ethical theory of community and care should be applied while reporting terrorist activities. As the IS aims at feeding the mass media for publicity, any mass media which decides to make this as a headline should consider several factors: first, will there be any possible harms on human relationship after broadcasting the news; second, if the public can find out the original footage from social media, is it necessary to play it again on the screen; third, whether the younger generation would mimic the acts of the terrorists will be another concern as they are unable to filter information like an adult does.
To be specific, if the US should be partly responsible for the emergence of terrorism, or the IS in particular, then the mainstream media should also be blamed for being not responsible for making news as they ‘helped’ the terrorist group to spread the message indirectly. Some may argue that the influence of mass media isn’t as influential as in the past due to the advancement of social media. Yet, the point being, given the advertisement market via broadcasting companies is still weighing over the online market, it is still valid to say that the mass media can shape the reality.
Apart from its excellence in managing social media, the operational model of the Islamic State is much more sustainable than the previous terrorist groups in the Middle East countries. The IS has manipulated the Mosul University in Iraq, thereby training more extremist young fighters to continue their kidnappings and beheadings for propaganda. Their massive destruction of cultural heritage on Syrian history is a sign of re-shaping the history in their controlled regions. Their acts of radically banning academic freedom and destroying evidence of human civilisation have showed that their group is well-planned to establish another emperor in the name of islamic religion.
In conclusion, the Islamic State isn’t a terrorist group that can be eliminated by neither military efforts nor diplomatic resolutions as it is an ideology extended from the flip side of the Internet. The idea of Internet facilitates collective intelligence, meaning people are much more powerful and democratised than ever. Regarding the current strategy of the IS, there are even videos about the establishment of Islamic State Health Service(ISHS), which aims at recruiting overseas doctors to provide medical services for the IS fellows. On one hand, the organizational structure of the IS makes no difference from a sovereign state, but on the other hand the group has a court system which interprets Sharia Law in a strict way that violates countless fundamental human rights. This mixed ideology does attract ten thousands of ‘freedom fighters’ and even doctors to work for them, so it is foreseeable that the Islamic State will be further expanded in an enormous scale. Although it is not feasible to eliminate the extremist group, the mass media should shoulder the mission to prevent the current situation from further exacerbating.