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Non-Muslim people in the terrorist organizations: A case of Russia

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According to the European Commission, more than 42,000 foreign fighters joined terrorist organizations between 2011 and 2016, around 5,000 of whom are believed to be from Europe (European Commission, July 2017, cited in Euronews, March 2019). The Republic of North Macedonia, France and Germany initiated the repatriation process of their citizens suspected to fight on the ISIS side. The policy of the countries may slightly vary. However, participation in ISIS is penalized. For example, the citizens of Germany have been prosecuted or placed into rehabilitation programs. The UK strips the citizenship from some British IS members who expressed a desire to return home, which has sparked huge human rights and legal debate. However, it is hard to differ former fighters from non-combatants and prove their guilt (Ibidem).

In the case of Russia, fight against world terrorism is one of the main policy goals (Military Doctrine of Russian Federation, December 30, 2014). Terrorist organizations, like “Taliban” or ISIS, are, naturally, prohibited and participation in their structures is strictly penalized. Nonetheless, Russian national group is the leading one fighting on the ISIS side (Soufan Group, cited in ura.ru, October 26, 2017). Nowadays, there is an increasing tendency among the Russians to join this kind of organizations. At the first time in 2013 Russian authorities confirmed the presence of their citizens fighting in the ISIS (Kavkaz Uzel, cited in Meduza, March, 2016). In 2015, according to the president of Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, there are about 2.5 thousand of Russian citizens fighting in the so-called Islamic State structures (BBC, October 16, 2015). In 2018 Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) claimed a number of 5 thousand citizens (Segodnya, 2018). The MIA notices that terrorist organizations after the defeat in Syria are going to increase their world network with the nationals of the former Soviet republics. (TASS, March 29, 2019).

A characteristic feature of the both cases is that neither in Europe nor in Russia Islam is not a dominative religion. In addition, fight with the terrorism played a major role in Russian discourse on intervention in Syrian campaign. Worth to notice that the official Kremlin supports the governmental forces of Bashar-al-Assad. Naturally, there are Russian mercenaries on the both sides (Meduza, March, 2016). This paper is going to examine the motivation of non-Muslim Europeans with the focus on the Russians to join terrorist organizations, the recruitment methods and the attitude of Russian Federation towards this issue.  For the purposes of this research it is necessary to describe a significant example in which a European woman, who wanted to investigate the schemes of recruitment to terrorist organizations, was convinced to join ISIS.

The European victims

Anna Erelle, a journalist, an author of the book “In the Skin of a Jihadist” was recruited during her professional duties, conducting a dangerous experiment (hereafter: The Insider, February, 2019). She was preparing the interviews with the jihadi teenagers and their motivations to leave the families. For the purposes of the research, she decided to create a fake Facebook account of 20-year-old French woman of Moroccan origin, recently converted to Islam, who grew up without father. During the experiment she met some radicals from France, Belgium, England, until once a stranger started to be interested in her opinion jihadi fighters and religion. A stranger appeared to be a 40-year-old ethnic French who left “sinful” Europe. The contactor tried to gain authority in the issues of Islam interpretation. Anna Erelle notices that it was easy to attract a young woman for an experienced man with a huge age difference. However, in some time Anna became a victim of her own experiment. The communication with the ISIS member moved from text chats on Facebook into personal Skype meeting. The recruiter had a deep knowledge in psychology and good communicative skills. He tried to find out the victim’s preferences, the reason of her interest in Islam or ISIS. Her also promised to protect her, fulfill all the dreams, present a lot of money or weapons. The recruiter described to Anna her future rich and carefree life. The only condition was to marry him. Sometimes, he blamed het in egoism for not helping their Muslim brothers. In some time, Anna felt in love with the ISIS fighter, even his polygamic marriage with four official wives was not an obstacle. The relation had some features of unhealthy dependence. The potential fiancé attacked a victim with the attention. They had to contact each other few times a day. She had to report him about her movements. She sincerely worried about him, especially during ISIS military operations. The recruiter also told that after the marriage a woman has to be hidden form the rest of the society but belong to her husband only. He justified his attitude with the misinterpretation of Coran: the entire life is a game, you are allowed to do whatever you want. Despite all the controversies, Anna decided to accept his proposal and started a trip to Syria (Ibidem). It is necessary to underline that it was a journalist experiment from the very beginning, she had a critical view on the ISIS and did not expect to be involved so deeply and sincerely. Moreover, it seems to look that she had a stable job and education. Nonetheless, it did not prevent her from being a victim.

Anna was proposed to travel through the Netherlands, crossing the Turkish-Syrian border. It was required to buy a local phone and take selfies to prove her localization. Worth to notice that a French woman assisted her as the guide to Syria. However, Anna decided to go to Amsterdam, take a selfie and stop the experiment. Nowadays, she is being threatened by ISIS but still have some sentiments to her former “fiancé” (Ibidem).

Target portrait

The ISIS ideology is primarily tapped two sets of motives: (1) the needs for security and stability, and (2) the needs for personal significance. The research team from the University of Maryland conducted the analysis of the pre-travel decision-making of fifty American ISIS volunteers. It was found that people experienced rejection and alienation in their communities wanted to escape their current life and find a new, positive identity. In addition, it was a chance to upgrade their socio-economic status. The research also contradicts the popular clam that the decision to break the social ties was made spontaneously. In the cases used in the study, almost three quarters of the victims were openly involved in the radical social networks and more than a half expressed radical views much earlier than they decided to join ISIS. However, these warning signs were neglected or unrecognized by the closest society (Jasko, Hassan, Kruglanski, Gunaratna, 2018).

The general portrait of the potential victim is similar to all the nationalities. However, in the case of non-Muslim population, particularly ethnic Russians, it is necessary to convince a person to accept voluntarily the values of foreign religion, culture and ideology.

The available Russian sources seem to suggest that the main targets are young people 16-30 years old, especially those who study or are professionally connected with oil or agriculture industry, IT, chemistry, physics, translation. These people have not got social and economic stability yet (like family or permanent job), suffer from depression or feel offended but the society. In addition, young adults perceive joining the terrorist organization as some kind of adventure and are not able to predict the consequences of this choice. Similar psychological premises allow to involve labor migrants into terrorism. Moreover, the potential targets are people newly converted to Islam. Another potentially endangered group are prisoners. Their main motivation is to restore social justice (Sputnik News, April 29, 2017; MK.ru, October 30, 2018). Moreover, ISIS is attractive for people with deviant behavior. A lack of traditional state institutions and different social norms that allow, for example, polygamic marriages, pedophilia or human slavery may be a decisive argument for some target groups. This kind of personality tends to seek violent videos with mass murders (Karachay-Cherkess Republic Police). It is necessary to underline that women are special target group. The recruiters seek for special psychological type of personality with a high level of suggestibility unable to have a critical view on the received information.  (Vesti.ru, February 5, 2017). Moreover, the additional trigger could be the experience of unsatisfactory romantic affairs in the past or will to find a husband abroad. A journalist Anna Erelle, whose story is mentioned above, is considered that the factor that attracts women is the presence of a strong man. For teenagers joining ISIS is a chance to become rich and famous. Furthermore, she is pointing out a negative impact of mass media in the creation of a positive image of terrorism. The attention of documentarists, made terrorism attractive. In addition, an unlimited possibility to share the photos in the social media show the “evidences” of “rich and careless” life in the ISIS (The Insider, February, 2019).

It is also necessary to underline that the strong governance inside ISIS does not allow people to leave it without consequences. The system of punishments and terror discourage a slightest resistance and force the victims to obey. Moreover, on the occupied territories joining the terrorists seems to be the only way to survive. People simply struggle from hunger and have no other job (Jasko, Hassan, Kruglanski, Gunaratna, 2018).

Recruitment methods

According to the Chairman of the Public Chamber for the Development of Public Diplomacy and the Support of Compatriots Abroad Elena Sutormina, the main recruitment channel is the Internet. The potential victims publish personal information in the social networks attracting the attention of the recruiters (RT, May 6, 2017). This could be, for example, a spoken language (preferably, oriental), studies at the university or hobbies. The students of Arab linguistics are contacted by their colleagues, native speakers, offering some help in learning language. Male recruiters try to make compliments to female students and continue communication (Ibidem). Shamil Sultanov, the president of the Russia-Islamic World Center for Strategic Studies, says that the ISIS most of all needs military specialists and programmers. Thus, IT student is a cheap workforce in comparison to a qualified specialist. Moreover, young unexperienced people perceive this kind of cooperation as a chance to find a well-paid job (Ibidem). A motivator tries to convince a victim in social injustice, underestimation of his/her abilities, promising an “opportunity” to change the world and become a part of “the chosen” group. Sometimes, persuasive effect is achievable due to hidden use of psychoactive substances against the victim during face-to-face meeting. However, the main aim of the recruiter is to make a target person to break social and family ties (Karachay-Cherkess Republic Police).In some cases, involving in terrorist organization is possible through friends or family members; public event or conference not necessarily connected with Islam. Moreover, another, not very obvious technique, is to provoke an interest of people to something new. For example, an ISIS member may not initiate the conversation but penetrate into a social group. His acquaintances might be curious about his religion, or unusual hobby etc. Human’s curiosity could be a good starting point for future recruitment as it was in the case of Anna Errele, described above (Karachay-Cherkess Republic Police).According to a victim, a recruiter could keep contact for a few years, talking on neutral topics. However, in some time the ISIS agent may provoke an interest to radical Islam and turn the communication in this way. In the case of females, male recruiters try to attract, gain authority, establish psychological dependence of the victim, convincing her to join ISIS (Rambler, May 16, 2019).

According to an anonymous source in the Russian special services, one of the main recruiters is so-called One-Legged Ahmed. In his scheme, people were first recruited via the Internet, invited and met in Istanbul. There, in a few days, One-Legged Ahmet with his companions produced fake documents, after people were transferred across the Turkish-Syrian border (Life News, cited in Liberty Radio, August 11, 2015).Moreover, ISIS does not only recruit people directly but provides propaganda campaign in the Russian language, using Internet and social media. One of the well-known resources orientated on the Russian-speaking audience is Furat Media. Currently their accounts are banned (The Guardian, cited in Komsomolskaya Pravda, July 13, 2015).

Russian countermeasures and implications

The basic countermeasure implemented by Russia is a wide-scale informational campaign. The ISIS and fight against terrorism forms a daily agenda of the major mass media. Documentaries, interviews with the victims, leaf-lefts form the police are dedicated to warn and prevent population from dealing with terrorism. However, in order to avoid terrorism propaganda mass media are obliged to put a clause “organization prohibited in Russia”, mentioning the acronym ‘ISIS’. Moreover, Russia tries to filter the information, censoring the Internet. In this way, using of social media for the purposes of terrorism made a pretext for Internet control by the Russian government. In 2016 Russian Federation introduced the law called “Yarovaya package” (after the name of Russian politician) which obliged messengers to identify their users, giving to special services the encryption keys and store user’s data on the territory of Russia (TASS, April 13, 2018). However, this decision was not successful enough and seemed to be a justification for Internet control. For example, the management of Telegram messenger resigned to cooperate with the government. The messenger was unsuccessfully blocked (Novaya Gazeta, April 13, 2018). In addition, according to the official narration, fight with the terrorism justifies the Russian presence in Syria (TASS, September 2017).

It is necessary to underline that Russian penal system pursuits people connected with the ISIS. The judicial processes on the people cooperated with the terrorism usually become demonstrative. The most known is the case of 23-year old Varvara Karaulova, a student of Moscow State University, arrested in summer 2015 on the Syrian-Turkish border by Interpol. She was recruited in the social media. A young woman decided to escape to Syria to her “husband”, one of the terrorist recruiters, with whom she was “married” via Skype. In 2016 Karaulova was sentenced to 4 years in general regime colony for an attempt to join ISIS. However, Russian penal code defines the sanction up to 10 years of sentence (Ria Novosti, April 16, 2019). Karaulova admits a kind of unhealthy psychological ties with her recruiter (Rambler, April 16, 2019). However, as some other sources claim that she was also recruiting other women, even during her detainment. Moreover, she was considered to be returned to Russia with a special mission from Allah. However, nowadays a girl regrets and feels ashamed with her ISIS past (Telegram-channel “Mash”, cited in Rambler, May 13, 2019).

Nonetheless, in some regions the persecution against people connected with ISIS was stopped. For example, there was a case in Chelabinsk when an anonymous man escaped through Kazakhstan and asked for permition to come back to Russia. According to the investigative organs, a man with a higher education was a victim of professional recruiters (74.ru, cited in Meduza, March, 2016).

Conclusion

The cases described above seem to suggest that human’s nature is universal. To sum up, the way of recruiting looks universal as well to the ethnic Russian as to other European, non-Muslim nationalities. The terrorists try to profile their victims, looking for some special types of personalities. The basic human needs for security and stability, and the needs for personal significance make a favorable ground for the recruitment. The available data show us an increasing number of the Post-Soviet states citizens, particularly the Russian ones, in the terrorist organizations. It allows us to make a prediction that this number is going to increase. In addition, unstable socioeconomic position of Russia may attract the potential victims. To put it into other words, for some groups of people ISIS is a chance to earn more money than in their motherland. However, the case of the French journalist described in this essay proofs that even professional curiosity could be a trigger to be sincerely involved into terrorist organization. Moreover, the level of education is not also a decisive factor that may prevent from the recruitment. It is possible due to the excellent knowledge of human psychology and use of persuasive techniques by the recruiters. A special strategy is used towards the females. In this case, the most vulnerable are young unmarried girls with negative experience of romantic affairs in the past who want to find a “defender”, an older strong man. It is also hard to underestimate the role of mass media that provoke an interest to ISIS, presenting “careless” lifestyle of its fighters. Countermeasures implemented by the Russian government, described above, are natural reaction on the danger. They, obviously, reduce the potential number of victims, however, they are not sufficient enough. Moreover, it seems to look that in the case of Russia, terrorism prevention is only a pretext to control society and provide a kind of censorship in the Internet and mass media. In addition, fight with the terrorism is used in the propaganda purposes as a justification of the Russian presence in Syria, supporting the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad.

Maria Bevz holds B.A and M.A degrees in International Relations (University of Warsaw). She specializes in security and strategic studies. Her research interests are: military conflicts, non-military threats, atrocity crimes and justice, international relations on the post-Soviet space.

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Terrorism

With Al Qaeda down but not out, killing Zawahiri is symbolic

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President Joe Biden was not wrong when he declared that “justice has been served” with the killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri in a US drone strike.

The problem is that’s only half of the truth; the other half is that Mr. Zawahiri was more a has-been than a power to be reckoned with on the jihadist totem pole. In death, he may have scored his most significant achievement since becoming head of Al Qaeda as the symbol of the failure of decades of war in Afghanistan.

Mr. Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul in a house owned by Sirajuddin Haqqani, Afghanistan’s de  facto deputy head of state, will be touted as evidence that Afghanistan has reverted to being a base for terrorist groups. Mr. Haqqani’s son and son-in-law are believed to have also died in the drone strike.

In addition, the killing will likely become a partisan issue in domestic US politics, with Republicans pointing to Mr. Biden’s bungled withdrawal a year ago of US troops from Afghanistan.

In anticipation of the criticism, Mr. Biden said the killing demonstrated the United States’ post-withdrawal ability to protect Americans without “thousands of boots on the ground.”

Even so, the withdrawal resulted from a war that the United States and its allies could not win and a fundamentally flawed US-Taliban agreement negotiated by the administration of former President Donald J. Trump that helped the Taliban regain power.

Since succeeding Osama bin Laden after the United States killed him in 2011, Mr. Zawahiri, the man who helped shape Al Qaeda from day one, could not garner the stature of the group’s former leader. Nor was he able to impose his will on Al Qaeda franchises in Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere in Africa.

Researcher Nelly Lahoud argues in a recently published book based on computer files confiscated in the US raid that killed Mr. Bin Laden that Al Qaeda had lost much of its operational capability in the immediate years after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

The Islamic State, the foremost jihadist organization locked into a bitter fight with the Taliban, increasingly overshadowed Al Qaeda, showcasing Mr. Zawahiri’s inability to fill Mr. Bin Laden’s shoes.

In fact, the Islamic State today poses a greater threat to the United States than Al Qaeda. Equally importantly, the Islamic State also constitutes a more significant threat to Central Asian states like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as Russia and China.

If Mr. Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul raises questions about the Taliban’s willingness and determination to prevent militant groups from operating from its territory, repeated Islamic State attacks on domestic Afghan targets, and the firing of rockets into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan call into question the group’s ability to do so.

To be sure, granting Al Qaeda leaders shelter does not by definition amount to Taliban acquiescence of the group launching attacks from Afghan soil.

The questions are particularly acute given that Mr. Zawahiri was killed days after the Taliban engaged with representatives of 30 countries at a conference in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent in a bid to unfreeze some US$7 billion in Afghan foreign currency reserves.

Days later, Tashkent hosted foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO), who had Afghanistan high on their agenda. The SCO groups India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The Taliban regime has yet to be officially recognized by any country. Countries across geopolitical divides have insisted that the Taliban first demonstrate their willingness and ability to control all of Afghanistan and curtail militant groups.

The international community also required the Taliban to form an inclusive government and ensure women’s rights. The Taliban have yet to deliver on any of its promises.

Reporting to the United Nations Security Council in January, UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons noted that “the existence of numerous terrorist groups in Afghanistan remains a broad international and especially regional concern. The desire of the de facto authorities to take on this threat across the board remains to be convincingly demonstrated.”

Ms. Lyons’ remarks have seemingly gone unheeded in Kabul. In response to the Islamic State attacks on Tajikistan, home to Russia’s largest foreign military base, the Taliban are building a watchtower on the two countries’ border with the help of a Tajik group bent on changing the regime in Dushanbe.

Adding insult to injury, graffiti near the tower celebrates Muhammad Sharipov, aka M. Arsalon or Mahdi Arsalon, a Tajik national wanted by authorities for the past eight years on terrorism charges.

During talks last month, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon cautioned his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, against a possible recognition by Moscow of the Taliban regime. Mr. Putin insisted that he would consider Tajik concerns about ethnic minority rights in Afghanistan.

While ethnic minority rights may be a Tajik concern, the opposite may be true for China. China fears that the militant Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), also known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), hardened by the war in Syria, may want to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks in retaliation for China’s brutal crackdown on the Uyghur Turkic Muslim minority in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.

A United Nations Security Council report said last month that the  group had built strongholds in Badakhshan near the Chinese border in northeast Afghanistan, where it had “expanded its area of operations and covertly purchased weapons, with the aim of improving its capabilities for terrorist activities.”

The Taliban suggested that they had moved the estimated 1,000 Uyghur fighters away from the Chinese border to other parts of Afghanistan last October. China has long pressed the Taliban to curtail the group’s activity.

Creating distance between Uyghur militants and the Chinese border may not be good enough. The Islamic State sought to make that clear when it employed an Uyghur as a suicide bomber in an attack last October on a Shiite Muslim mosque in the Afghan city of Kunduz.

The message was: Uyghur militants have alternatives. The Taliban may not be their best bet.

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Afghanistan on the Verge of Religious Terrorism and Sectarian Warfare

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In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s position towards the Salafists has become punitive and ruthless once again. Albeit followers of numerous religious Sects live in Afghanistan, such as Ismailia, Shia, Jafri, Ahle-Hadith/Wahhabis, and Sunni-Hanafi. The position of the Taliban militants concerning the Sunni-Hanafi religion is soft and the level of danger to its followers is very low and even zero, compared to followers of other religions. Nevertheless, there are three religious sects, whose followers are utmost risk, and are under the greatest threat and danger.

These three religious groups are particularly tarnished in Afghanistan, since they are assumed to be the elements of foreign intelligence organizations and are used for a common intelligence goal.     The first category is the Shias, whose lives are currently under threat in the country, and there are always deadly attacks on their religious ceremonies. Even the Taliban militants intervene in their rites, while disrupting their religious rituals and beating them up. Meantime, attacks against the Shia religions by the Daesh group or using the name of this group have been intensified, while slaying them, are tactics of foreign intelligence especially CIA.

Steering an intelligence war tactics in the name of religion between Daesh/Salafi and Shia religions in Afghanistan, like Mosul and other parts of Iraq, which will in turn strain the relations between the new administration of the Taliban of Afghanistan and Iran, is part of the CIA’s policy. Because it will   force Iran to use the Fatimun proxy group to defend the right of the Shia religion’s followers in Afghanistan. Thus, the practice of anti-Taliban armed forces and fronts against the Taliban to indirectly control the Taliban in Afghanistan is a special part of the US foreign policy. Nonetheless, if the US wants to directly control the Taliban, then they are supposed to intervene militarily, or apply tremendous external pressure on the Taliban, to get them abide by the US policy.

However, after August 15, the United States used some methods to directly control the Taliban, but the result was deleterious. Because the relationship between America and the Taliban has strained and the United States almost lost control over, this organized and faith-based armed militia. Consequently, the United States, with the help of the Daesh group or using its name, incited the followers of the Shiite religion against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

As they want to create such anti-Taliban fronts against the Taliban in Afghanistan letting other countries support them financially, providing them with training centers and sanctuaries, and on the international level, they will be defamed, while benefiting America indirectly.  The United States will keep the Taliban amused by claiming to defend the Taliban against those groups, and in some cases, the United States will conduct airstrikes to defend the Taliban against the anti-Taliban fronts. Actually, the US tries to wage a religious and ethnic war in Afghanistan, by means of the Daesh group to multiply the heat of the civil war in Afghanistan.

Moreover, the first juncture of the civil war, is the use of the Daesh group against the Shia religions in Afghanistan, and for the defense of Shia sects, Iran will deploy its proxy-armed groups, namely Fatimiun fighters.  Keeping the ethnic war upward in Afghanistan, the main victims are supposedly Tajiks, Hazaras and other non-Pashtun tribes, but the likely victims of this war will be Pashtuns as well.

The second sect’s follower whose lives are under severe threat and danger, are Ahle-Hadith/ Wahhabis/Salafis. The Wahhabi religion has many followers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In Afghanistan, Wahhabis are called by the Taliban as Khariji and the pedigrees of ISIS. Henceforth, its followers have been either killed, missing or persecuted.

Wahhabis, whose financial supporters are said to be the Gulf countries, customarily some of their citizens are active members of Daesh.

The third sect of which followers’ lives are currently under threat in Afghanistan are the Ahle-tasawuf/ Sufis, whose followers were targeted and their worship places have been blown up recently.

Subsequently, a new phase of intelligence warfare between the US’ CIA and Iran’s VAJA, thru their proxies will begin, and Afghanistan will turn into a hotbed of state sponsored Jihadi terrorism, which will in turn extensively divide Afghanistan into numerous fronts. Moreover, the contemporary values such as democracy, peace, political stability, republicanism and social-market economy will remain vague and unachievable.

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Analyzing link between Middle Eastern politics and the rise of ISIS

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The vacuum in the politics of Middle East has always provided an opportunity for external actors to intervene. After the decomposition of Ottoman Empire, puppet governments were placed to rule the Middle East, in best interest of imperial powers. It was an indirect imperialism. The puppet politicians always depended on external forces to consolidate their authority rather than people. They kept the local population and their security at stake to serve the imperial powers, in order to maintain their rule. People were considered as a subject to secure interests of state and the ruling elite. External powers were given easy access to the resources specifically oil reserves. One of the major goals of Western interference in Middle East was to merge it in the global economy. Therefore, people felt endangered, and insecure. Further, it gave rise to two main social groups, one was ruling elite and the other was subordinate. Different forms of nationalism developed in both the social groups. The ruling class developed in it liberal nationalism, wanted independence from Western influence but keep healthy relations as well. And the other class which was marginalized with the introduction of capitalist economic system, resisted centralization of state power and economic integration. External forces backed the oppressive regimes to suppress the resistance movements.

Street politics and Arab nationalism shaped the new paradigm of Middle Eastern politics. Many Arab revolutionary leaders appeared on the horizon like Nasser of Egypt who confronted Western-backed regimes. Street politics and military coups overthrew the existing political system. Many new socio-economic policies were introduced granting the control of resources to local population. Programs were designed to pursue the goals, but they lacked sustainability. It appeared that those programs could not function without excessive amounts of foreign aid. The economies of Middle Eastern states were again opened for foreign investments and integration. Its consequences proved to be devastating. Take, for example, Egypt government cut back subsidies on bread and other goods. Famous “bread riots” started there. People protested against the governments and their policies. The resistance was again tried to suppress using authoritarian tools. The consistent rioting, suppression, deprivation, insecurities and chaos led to the breakdown of social institutions. They were unable to function and fulfil their duties. During all the mayhem, Iraq was invaded by US and Saddam regime was toppled down. Nouri-al-Maliki was made the Prime Minister of Iraq. The government consisted of majority Shias. Maliki started targeting and marginalizing Sunni population of Iraq. Unwarranted detentions, murders, abductions, torture, and etc. On the other side, Syria was also going through a civil war due to the oppressive regime of Bashar-al-Asad. Hence, this ignited the fire of sectarianism in Middle East which was further pumped up by the sectarian clashes of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Stepping in of Islamist organizations:

People were deprived of their due share of rights. After US invasion, state and society of Iraq was completely damaged. Syria was in a civil war. Many Islamist organizations appeared in the scenario. They started to provide basic necessities to people through charity. They presented an alternative social vision. But it was unclear what purpose the mosque-based charity projects actually had. One of the similar kind of organization was initiated by Abu Musab Al- Zarqawi. Slowly and steadily the organization instrumentalized the deprivation and sectarian elements in people. It was named as Al- Qaeda in Iraq. It was a Sunni organization, therefore, prejudiced against Shia sect. They considered them as “infidels” and “friends of Westerners”. After gaining popular support the organization expressed its motive of eliminating the “near and far enemies” of Islam, which were all sects of Islam except Sunni, Westerners, and Muslims who support West. The organization targeted Shia population in Iraq, claiming it as a retaliation of government’s actions. Religious sites, processions, meetings of Shias were suicide bombed. The government or military convoys were also attacked. People started joining the organization to fight the oppression of US and puppet regime of Maliki. Zarqawi was killed in a US-led airstrike in 2006. The organization almost shattered. But then it reappeared in 2011, under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was then named as “Islamic state”. The goal was to establish “Islamic Caliphate”, a state where West cannot influence Muslims and they can live their lives according to their religion, freely. Muslims will neither be humiliated nor attacked. Their identity and recognition will be secured. This was also a Sunni organization. Many Iraqis started joining the organization for the “state”, considering the social, political and economic circumstances of Iraq at that time. IS began to expand across the borders, in Syria. It wanted to exploit the situation in Syria as well to gain maximum control and power. The organization was renamed as “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”. As Sunnis in Syria were also oppressed under the Alawite regime, a huge number of people recruited themselves in ISIS. It began its activities in Syria by suicide bombing, targeting government offices, military convoys and Shia population. With its attacks, ISIS captured territories which had minimum control by the state. Baghdadi declared the establishment of Islamic State with himself as the Caliph in 2014. The state comprised of captured territories in Iraq and Syria with Raqqa as its nominal capital. This was an encouraging factor for many people resisting against repression. Large numbers were recruited in ISIS. Even marginalized non-Muslims in Western countries converted to Islam in order to join ISIS. They fled to Iraq and Syria. ISIS was a by-product of destroyed institutions and damaged social fabric. When the outlets of political expression are blocked by the tyrant structures, people adopt terrorism as their expression.

Consolidation and spread of the narrative:

With the boom of social media, ISIS used the opportunity to spread its narrative all across the world. Fighters made their official accounts on Twitter and many other sites to reach the common man. They started posting about their day to day lives and convince people to join the “Greater Cause” which will lead them to “Jannah”. They also posted videos of torture and beheadings of abducted foreigners, military personnel and journalists. They called it as revenge of humiliation and oppression against Muslims. Such accounts were identified and then suspended time to time. But they popped up one after another. The initiation of new account affected the traffic and followers but it was not completely rooted out. With the initiation of global “War on Terror”, authorities of social media sites were contacted and asked to suspend all such accounts accordingly. The violent content on different visual platforms was also removed. It did not wholly wiped ISIS out, but to some extent the reach was limited. Though accounts were being suspended, but the impact they had created could not be easily neutralized. ISIS extended its roots in many countries. It has been comprehensively explained by Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger in their book ISIS: The State of Terror about how ISIS expanded its influence through social media and attracted a large following across the world due to its violent videos and catchy slogans. The videos were made with high-quality equipment and fine graphics, in more than two dozen languages. All the efforts were done to gain popular support. But they were not able to achieve their desired goal because of their violence and genocidal vision. A huge mass of world population did not endorse the “ideology”.

As per the analysts, rise of ISIS is the result of dismantled institutions and damaged social fabric. The state institutions and government failed to serve the population, it created a vacuum for non-state actors to step in. They established parallel institutions and structure to provide sense of security which the state could not. This brought them popular support, after which they started pursing their interests. Although, the organization inflicted much harm on the world but its current state depicts that such ideologies can only survive in weak environment like that in Iraq and Syria.

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In the English speaking world during the first part of the 19th century, women were considered either too frivolous or...

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How Bolivia’s 2019 coup exemplified millennia of global history

Throughout thousands of years of human history, dictatorships have been the norm, not the exception, and all of them have...

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