Islamism and Extremism

  • One Fighter’s Recruitment – and Escape – from ISIS

    As ISIS swept over large swathes of the eastern province, former FSA fighter Abu Khadija pledged his allegiance, believing the extremists were his best bet to topple the Assad government. Now, after escaping, he wishes he could take it all back. In most ways, Abu Khadija, a 39-year-old Syrian, is not remarkable. He used to making a living as a salesman in a men’s clothing shop in the capital, Damascus.

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  • A Closer Look at the Educational System of ISIS

    Two years after the Islamic State (ISIS) seized Raqqa and a number of areas in Syria, it successfully asserted itself and its way of thinking on most aspects of city life. ISIS’s changes encompass the social, educational, and cultural institutions. To make these changes, ISIS has at times used coercion and compulsion, and at other times enticed people through its interpretations of Islam.

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  • The Churches of Deir Ezzor

    Once home to a bustling community of Christians, church bells have not tolled in Deir Ezzor for three and a half years. Whether intentionally or collaterally, regime, the Islamic State (ISIS), and the Nusra Front have destroyed Deir Ezzor’s churches. Now, only memories remain of the city’s four churches and those that attended them.

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  • Paris, Sinai, and the State of the ‘Caliphate’

    The terrorist attacks that killed scores in Paris and brought down a passenger plane over the Sinai demonstrate a new ISIS tactic and a surprising degree of capability. The operations have been described as an ISIS reaction to the setbacks it is incurring under international and local military pressure in Syria and Iraq. However, there is little evidence that these are the actions of a beleaguered ‘caliphate,’ and the West’s unenthusiastic reaction gives lie to the statements that these attacks are signs that ISIS made a fatal mistake. To ISIS, the coalition air campaign and the limited local competition are not existential threats, but challenges that necessitate innovation and adaption. And as the past few years have shown, ISIS is nothing if not adaptable. The Paris and Sinai attacks—and the high likelihood of future overseas terrorism successes—only show that ISIS is wickedly inventive, at least when compared to its foreign enemies.

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  • The Islamic State’s Molding of Syrian Children

    ISIS is recruiting a new wave of combatants into its ranks following the joint forces’ advances into Raqqa province and to assert its control over larger swaths of the northern outskirts of Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that between January and August 2015 1,100 children under the age of sixteen have been recruited by the Islamic State (ISIS). A Syrian Human Rights Committee report states, “Most of them take part in non-killing activities, assisting elder fighters in a logistical manner, such as transferring ammunition, preparing meals, cleaning munitions and machines, whilst others assist with guarding patrols and barriers.”

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  • In Bangladesh, Radical Islam on the Rise as 'Battling Begums' Feud

    Faysal Arefin was stabbed to death in his second-floor office in a crowded Dhaka neighborhood on Oct. 31. His crime: Publishing books by Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American blogger and strident opponent of religious extremism.

    Arefin is not the first to meet such a gruesome end. On Feb. 26, machete-wielding men fatally attacked Roy as he was walking with his wife on a street in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

    Arefin and Roy are part of an alarming — and growing — list of victims of radical Islam. At least five secular bloggers have been killed in Bangladesh so far this year. Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a local Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, has drawn up a...

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  • Of Barrel Bombs and Jeans

    The people of Deir Ezzor, Syria live under both regime bombardment and Islamic State (ISIS) oppression, with neither side willing to concede this key city. Deir Ezzor is strategically important—it not only contains oil wells, but also serves as the gateway to Ramadi and Raqqa, the latter which ISIS calls its capital. Meanwhile the civilians of Deir Ezzor languish under wanton killing and oppression.  

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  • An Iranian's Advice: Mind Your Own Business

    President Barack Obama's take on Syria is that there is the Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS, or Daesh) in the east - an entity that must be degraded and destroyed - and the Assad regime in the west - an entity that should be negotiated out of existence. The United States will bomb ISIL from the air in the east.
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  • ISIS’s Cup is Half Full

    “Ali” is a former Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) fighter. Before joining ISIS, he was a university student known among his friends for his kindness and friendliness. His joining has bewildered his friends, especially since ISIS killed a close relative of his. His uncle said of him, “I was responsible for raising Ali. I know him well, he has a good heart and would never even harm a cat. I was shocked to hear he had joined [ISIS]. Ali would never take on that extremist thought and he doesn’t need money. However, the brainwashing and the violations that the Kurdish militias committed against the Arabs were major reasons for his joining.”
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  • Syria: Taking the Initiative, Acquiring Some Leverage

    Responding to reporters' questions on October 2, President Barack Obama made clear the inadmissibility in Syria of any US cooperation with "a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad’s behavior."
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