Just an hour ago Islamic State released a video showing the murder of the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, shot down over Syria in December. Jordan has confirmed the death, saying that they believe the pilot was executed a month ago. The propaganda video shows Kasasbeh talking about his mission to bomb IS targets, before he is burned to death inside a cage. Continue reading
As the week goes on, the situation in the northern Syrian city of Kobane gets worse and worse. The Kurdish city, directly on the border with Turkey, is surrounded by Islamic State forces who are pressing its defenders fiercely. IS holds the hills around Kobane, and is able to shell the city with ease. The battle rages while US warplanes circle overhead, and Turkish tanks watch from across the border. So why is Kobane so important? What are the Turks waiting for? And what does that say about Turkey’s role in the region? Continue reading
Only a year after considering bombing Assad, the US is now launching airstrikes within Syria on his enemies – Islamic State. Dozens of jihadists have allegedly been killed by the strikes, carried out by the US together with the Gulf States and Jordan. As pundits and experts explore every possible angle and effect of the latest strikes, it’s worth taking a look back at some of the previous US interventions in the Middle East – and whether they lived up to their ambitious aims. Continue reading
This week for my Middle Eastern Culture course I had to write a blog post on a ‘cultural object’ in the Middle East – this is that same blog post. It’s different from what I write most weeks, but still fits the blog quite well I think.
Many of us will recently have wondered why certain people have been changing their Facebook profile photos to the Arabic letter ‘N’ (or a strange half-moon if you don’t read Arabic). The change is a sign of solidarity with Iraqi Christians who Islamic State have forced to flee their home of Mosul. IS painted the letter on the houses of Christians (Nasrani in Arabic) to mark them out from their neighbours. The events in Mosul, and the use of this letter, show the two sided nature of the struggle for recognition faced by Middle Eastern minorities – from the outside world and in the Middle East itself. Continue reading
On Saturday night Islamic State released a video of their third beheading in less than a month. This time the victim was British aid worker David Haines. Haines was kidnapped last year in Syria where he was delivering humanitarian aid. He had previously worked for charities from Croatia to South Sudan, and leaves behind a Croatian wife and a four year old son. This latest horrific murder will only steel the resolve of the West and their Middle Eastern allies to destroy the organisation. So who is working against IS? How can they hit hardest? And what will work in the long term? Continue reading
Following the beheading video of James Foley, my last post focused on the brutality of the Islamic State and their intolerant ideology. However, in the rush of disgust caused by the video, it is easy to forget to look at why these people do such things. Islamic State didn’t arise in a vacuum, and within the last year they have created what is in many ways a functioning state. So what is it actually like to be one of the millions governed by the Islamic State? How does history and Islam explain their rise? And can they hold on to the territory they cover?
On Tuesday the world was horrified by the news that the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) had beheaded the kidnapped American journalist James Foley. The militants released a video showing the experienced photojournalist kneeling in the desert and reading a statement blaming his own death on the actions of US in Iraq. After finishing his statement Foley was murdered by a masked man. The brutal video brought a furious response by Western governments, and put the Islamic State firmly in the headlines yet again. So why was Foley murdered now, after almost two years in captivity? What does this say about the ideology of the Islamic State? And will this lead to a bigger US role in Iraq?