This declaration should be supported by all progressive humanity:
Left Socialist Blog
End Terrorist Attacks By Stopping Western Wars and Islamophobia says StWC.
War, Terrorism & Islamophobia: Breaking The Vicious Circle Stop the War Coalition, also reproduced on the site of the groupuscule, Counterfire, which occupies many of the StWC’s leading positions.
Lindsey German writes,
The threat of Islamic terrorism requires a serious analytical response which cannot ignore the background against which it exists.
Does this involve an analysis of what Islamic terrorism is, the nature of groups such as the Islamic State, their genocidal ideology and practice? Their relation to Salafism, the social and ideological conditions in which they have grown in?
..every serious analysis of the increase in terrorism over the past 16 years has to confront one central fact: that the ill-conceived and misnamed war on terror has actually increased the level of terrorism in Europe, not reduced it.
The terrible consequences of the Iraq war – and subsequent interventions in Libya and Syria – have indeed led to a growth in terrorism both across the Middle East and South Asia.
German does not go further.
She offers nothing about the history of Islamism, from the Iranian Revolution (1979) to the conflicts between Shia and Sunni that mark the greatest number of terrorist atrocities. Or the Algerian Civil War, (over 100,000 dead, 1991 – 2002), an example of religiously inspired violence and state repression which has profoundly shaped the Maghreb, and left support for murdering Jihadism to be mobilised in the present conflicts.
There is equally not a word on the decades long development of Islamism in all its various forms, from the Muslim Brotherhood, back to its roots in the writings and practice of figures such as Sayyid Qutb to cite but one name, that a “serious analysis” would have to grapple with in any effort to explain the intensity, the blood-stained killings that mark the present batch of jihadists.
This is no doubt a large area, a hard reading list even for the learned German, but she could begin here Islamism (Wikipedia). Or indeed with the books reviewed on this site yesterday, notably, The Way of the Strangers by Graeme Wood.
Such a study would show that the violence, the racism and the totalitarian ambitions of the jihadist wing of the Islamist movement cannot be reduced to an effect of Western Intervention.
The invasion of Iraq, and the failed state that the US tried to create, has increased the possibilities for Jihadists to spread, fueled the wars between Shiites and Sunnis, and led to the wholescale religious cleansing of non-Muslims from a large swathe of the Middle East.
But the springs for the terrorist violence in Europe, the mechanisms which organise it, which encourage it, the actual series of intentional acts of murder, lie in the material shape of the Jihadist groups, their ideology and the individuals who carry out the slaughter.
It is worth remembering that those countries still reeling from the effects of these interventions face regular terrorist attacks against their own populations, with often dozens killed in single attacks on markets and other public places. These receive scant coverage in the British media and certainly not the emotional responses that mark an attack in London or Paris. But they alone should prove as false the idea that these attacks are about British values. They are political attacks designed to promote the ideas of IS or al Qaeda or other similar groups and their main targets are other Muslims.
This is all too true, which might lead the leaders of the StWC to support those in these countries, Muslim or not, above all the liberals and secularists, fighting the Islamists, and, above all, the Jihadists, linked with, or members of Daesh and Al Qaeda.
That is there.
Here is here.
And here is, apparently, where the problem comes from.
The first is that the foreign policy which has contributed to the rise of terrorism has to end. These wars are not history but are ongoing. Only this week there have been reports of a US bombing raid on a mosque near Aleppo in Syria which has killed many civilians, in addition to the bombing of Mosul in Iraq – as part of the campaign against IS – which has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths, including 200 in a recent attack.
Such attacks are exactly what has helped feed terrorism in the past.
Sagely German notes that,
The second message is that the response to such attacks cannot be further racism against Muslims.
Those advocating “further racism” take note!
What we can be certain of is that these attacks will continue unless there are major political changes.
This climate of racism here in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, is only helping to create a vicious circle where Islamophobia leads to a growth in extremism and terrorism, which in turn leads to more Islamophobia. It is a circle which can only be broken by a concerted campaign against both war and Islamophobia.
This will surely defeat the genociders of the Islamic State.
That is, it would, if Islamism and the Islamic State had been created by ‘Islamophobia’ and racism.
Faced with the depth of the challenge that Jihadism presents this statement marks the inability of the Stop the War Coalition to rise above slogans.
This is profoundly moving:
Two Yazidi women who escaped sexual enslavement by so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq have won Europe’s top human rights award, the Sakharov prize.
Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar were among thousands of Yazidi girls and women abducted by IS militants and forced into sexual slavery in 2014.
But both survived and now campaign for the Yazidi community.
The freedom of thought prize is awarded annually in memory of Andrei Sakharov, a Soviet scientist and dissident.
Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, described the winners as “inspirational women who have shown incredible bravery and humanity in the face of despicable brutality”.
“I am proud that they have been awarded the 2016 Sakharov Prize,” he added.
Tens of thousands of Yazidis were forced to flee their homes after IS fighters took the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar in August 2014.
Thousands of women and girls were treated as “spoils of war” and openly sold in slave markets to IS militants. They were separated from the men and boys, many of whom were shot dead.
The Islamist slavers and genociders have not gone away or been brought to justice.
U.N. investigators said in a report in June that Islamic State is committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the religious community of 400,000 people through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes.
Such a designation, rare under international law, would mark the first recognized genocide carried out by non-state actors, rather than a state or paramilitaries acting on its behalf.
October the 22nd:Dozens of Yazidi women enslaved by ISIS moved from Mosul, group says. (CNN).
Dozens of Yazidi women captured and enslaved by ISIS in 2014 have been moved from the Iraqi city of Mosul to Syria, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The monitoring group and US military officials have said ISIS militants are fleeing Mosul and heading for Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of ISIS, as Iraqi-led forces push to free the key Iraqi city from the terror group.
Dozens of ISIS families have already arrived in Raqqa, the observatory said.
Ethnic cleansing by ISIS has displaced, killed and enslaved hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Yazidis, members of an ancient ethnic and religious minority. Modern-day Iraq is the traditional homeland of the Yazidis.
StWC Opposes Outside Help to Defeat Genocidal ISIS.
Iraqi-led forces have surrounded a Christian town in an attempt to liberate it from ISIS control, but they are facing fierce resistance, exchanging heavy gunfire with the militants, a paramilitary general told CNN.
The operation in the town of Qaraqosh by Iraqi forces, Peshmerga fighters and a Christian paramilitary group is the latest in an aggressive push toward the city of Mosul by a coalition of around 94,000 people, aimed at unshackling the strategic city from more than two years of brutal ISIS control.
Part of Qaraqosh has already been liberated, according to General Amr Shamoun, who belongs to the Christian militia involved in the attack.
More on CNN.
Inside Mosul: IS threatens US and spreads terror among civilians
As Iraqi forces close in on Mosul, IS targets suspected spies and is believed to be using civilians as human shields.
StWC Statement on Mosul (17th of October).
The misery of the people of the Middle East continues. We have condemned the bombing of Aleppo by Russia and that of Yemen by Saudi Arabia. Now there is the battle over Mosul in which both US and UK planes will be used for air strikes. While no one can support the brutal behaviour of ISIS, and all would welcome its disappearance, more aerial bombardment of civilians will not help to bring about peace and stability in Iraq. Indeed, the offensive on Mosul which began today is in danger of creating a grave humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands try to flee the city.
This is the key part of the statement,
The US and UK governments do not have the interests of the people at heart, but are concerned with their own strategic interests and control of the resources in the region, in the case of Mosul oil. Stop the War opposes all the outside interventions by foreign powers and all the bombing being carried out from whatever source on the people of the Middle East.
So the StWC would welcome the “disappearance” of ISIS – presumably in a puff of smoke.
In the meantime they are opposed to the military aid which might bring their defeat.
Because the US and the UK have an interest in Mosul Oil?
Because they are “outside interventions”?
Mosul is a very hard case but what was their stand during this: the siege of Kobanî when our Kurdish comrades fought for dear life against the genociders of ISIL (ISIS)?
By 2 October 2014, ISIL succeeded in capturing 350 Kurdish villages and towns within the vicinity of Kobanê, generating a wave of some 300,000 displaced Kurds, who fled across the border into Turkey‘sŞanlıurfa Province. By January 2015, this had risen to 400,000. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), coordinated as part of the Euphrates Volcano joint operations room, were later joined by further Free Syrian Army (FSA) reinforcements, heavily armed Peshmerga of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and American and Arab airstrikes providing air support.
On 26 January 2015, the YPG, along with the continued US-led airstrikes, began to retake the city, driving ISIL into a steady retreat. The city of Kobanê was fully recaptured on 27 January; however, most of the remaining villages in the Kobanî Canton remained under ISIL control. Kurdish militia along with allied Arab armed groups backed by further airstrikes, then made rapid advances in rural Kobanî, with ISIL withdrawing 25 km from the city of Kobanî by 2 February. By late April 2015, ISIL had lost almost all of the villages it had captured in the Canton, but maintained control of a few dozen villages it seized in the northwestern part of the Ar-Raqqah Governorate. The battle for Kobanî was considered a turning point in the war against ISIL.
Well, we know they oppose all foreign interventions.
This is important background reading: this time on the related struggles in Syria.
On 15 November 2015, Diane Abbott went on the BBC’s ‘Daily Politics’ show to defend herself and the Stop the War (StW) coalition against a rather odd accusation: that they refuse to give a platform to Syrians when discussing Syria.
It followed a heated exchange just days prior, in which Syrian activists challenged StW’s leadership on the matter during a talk on Syria. They were backed by Peter Tatchell, the veteran anti-war activist who had also been criticising StW for what many perceive as its intolerance towards left-wing, democratic and anti-Assad Syrian activists.
This was not a new accusation. StW has prevented Syrian activists from speaking at their rallies or from taking part in any “anti-war” campaign, while giving a platform to pro-Assad apologists and inviting Assad’s own allies like the Ghouta massacre-denier Fadia Laham, also known as “Mother Agnes”, for years.
This exposes two fundamental aspects of StW today: A de facto tolerance and acceptance of Assad’s tyranny translated as the problem of people “over there” which “we” must not get involved in, regardless of the repercussions, and a hatred for subaltern voices, in this case Syrians, who do not fit the accepted narrative.
This, in turn, works hand in hand with an outdated cold war-era framework, still plaguing much of the western and Arab Left, which romanticises (read: whitewashes) the Kremlin’s politics.
More on The New Arab.
After 15 Years what do they have to show for it all?
Our conference next month marks the 15th anniversary of our movement. A time to say no to all the wars arising from the war on terror. And to continue our commitment to opposing the system our government is at the heart of, imperialism.
If the StWC is opposed to all wars “arising from the war on terror”, and it bases its opposition on being against ‘imperialism’ is the StWC simply an ‘anti-imperialist’ group.
The confusion that has lain for years over the StWC comes from this source.
It can be ‘against’ Western, and specifically UK, involvement in ‘bombing Syria’ but it has absolutely no answer to the multiple wars in that region, except being against the one force they identity as ‘imperialist’ – the US and its direct allies.
Who are opposed to Assad, who is backed by the Russian Federation, and Iran.
Who are not – officially – supported by the StWC because the StWC is against all ‘foreign’ involvement in Syria – even (they officially) claim those fighting ‘imperialism’, like Assad.
Who the US and its NATO allies oppose.
But even here, since some US allies, such as the Saudis and the Gulf states, back non-ISIS jihadist forces to the US against Assad and against…the Kurds.
Who, a progressive left force, are supported (in the shape of the YPG) by the Americans…
Who have been driven to oppose to Turkey, its ally, when they fight the Kurds..
Who are also…
Well, we could go on.
Stopping the War is clearly not on the cards in Syria, nor has the slogan any meaning in dealing with the fighting in Iraq.
StWC claims not to “take sides” in Syria, but somehow be to be against “war” without being pacifists – that it absolutely against any violence.
But the violence continues, and there is no such thing as a non ‘intervening’ side when not doing something is to let things, continue…
The incoherence of the position of the STWC is to imagine, or at least claim, that they are both au-dessus de la Mêlée and anti-imperialist.
But we all incoherent faced with the mass killings taking place.
But failing to stand up for human decency in the face of the genocides taking place and saying, in effect, “none of our business”, leave a nasty taste in the mouth.
Most people have simply walked away from this crew.
Let the Festivities Commence!
It would be churlish not to leave the StWC with some crumbs of comfort.
In a note of self-celebration and a much needed pat on the pat, German also states today,
We did a great thing collectively with Stop the War. We have maintained it as an organisation and in the past year have seen a considerable increase in support, despite (or perhaps because of) the attacks on Corbyn. We are, I think, the major anti-war movement in any Nato country. The attacks from the right over the Syria bombing vote in 2013 showed the legacy of the movement and what damage we did. Ditto the Syria vote last year, used as a vicious attack on Jeremy Corbyn (and joined in by the pro-intervention left). There are many issues to debate about our history, and still a job to combat interventions in the Middle East and through Nato expansion.
But no, let us continue churlishly.
In reality all that remains of this “great thing” is that the StWC struggled to get a couple of thousand people at its last demonstration (November 2015) and barely more than a couple of hundred at the CND anti-Trident protest outside Parliament this July.
One notes who they chose as a speaker at the November event.
And this sprightly new face, before his more recent Brexit campaigning:
The major reason for their decline is that the StWC is as we have just seen, an irrelevance in the face of the events unfolding in the Middle East.
Another is that the group, no doubt caught up in what Counterfire calls the ‘actuality of the revolution’ feels free to expound on a variety of issues with a less than direct link to war.
It published this tissue of lies a few days ago:
These are some of the most shameful episodes in the treatment of Muslim women in France that I can recall. They are state sponsored bullying and racism pure and simple. Islamophobia is only one form of racism, although it is the major one in Europe today. But it is the only one which targets the behaviour and dress of women in particular, and tried to alter this behaviour in the most draconian way.
German shamefully tries to link the ban on the Burkini to French international interventions.
She can barely resist saying of the atrocities, “they had it coming to them…”
France has also been increasingly strongly involved in interventions in Muslim countries, most notably Syria and Libya, which have led to increases in the level of terrorism.
Without going into great detail about the issue we simply note.
Defend our Sisters and Brothers from Daesh Genocide.
The Guardian reports.
A cross-party group of peers is stepping up its campaign to have the persecution and killing of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria declared a genocide with an amendment to the immigration bill. A vote to decide is expected on Monday.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said last week that Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and others, and there was a unanimous vote along similar lines in the European parliament last month.
The UK government has refused to make such a declaration, insisting it is a matter for international judicial bodies. Its position is “morally indefensible”, said Helena Kennedy, one of those backing the amendment in the House of Lords.
Dozens of peers have backed the amendment but the government is instructing its members to vote against it.
The amendment says that a person seeking asylum in the UK, who belongs to “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” that is subject to genocide as defined under international law, should be presumed to meet the conditions of asylum. Crucially, it adds that a supreme court judge should adjudicate on whether genocide has been committed “after consideration of the available facts”.
As well as Lady Kennedy, others peers supporting the amendment include Michael Forsyth, Emma Nicholson, Caroline Cox and David Alton.
In a letter sent to peers urging their support, Cox said: “It is noteworthy that, in the past two years, two serving foreign secretaries have lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda quickly enough, despite overwhelming and compelling evidence. We have an opportunity to prevent history from repeating itself.”
Letter (Catholic Herald):
A cross-party group of peers is pushing for a judge to determine whether ISIS are carrying out genocide in the Middle East
The British Government is facing increasing calls to recognise that ISIS’s attacks on Christians, Yazidis and others should be declared genocide.
A cross-party group of peers is moving an amendment which could trigger a legal process obliging the Government to fulfil its obligations as a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention.
If the amendment passes, a judge – possibly from the High Court or Supreme Court – will examine the evidence and decide whether ISIS’s actions count as genocide.
That would force the Government to take concrete steps to protect the victims of ISIS and seek to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Government has so far refused to make a declaration of genocide, saying that such decisions are a matter for the judicial system.
In a letter to peers asking them to support the amendment, Baroness Cox, one of the group, said: “It is noteworthy that, in the past two years, two serving Foreign Secretaries have lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda quickly enough, despite overwhelming and compelling evidence. We have an opportunity to prevent history from repeating itself.”
The peers moving the amendment to the Immigration Bill include Baroness Kennedy (Labour), Lord Forsyth (Conservative) and Baroness Nicholson (Lib Dem).
The Government is whipping against the amendment, which will face a Lords vote on Monday. If it passes, it will then come to the Commons.
It comes after the US House of Representatives voted unanimously by 393-0 to declare that ISIS is committing genocide. The State Department has pledged to announce by tomorrow whether it classes ISIS’s actions as genocide, though the decision may be delayed until next week.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the United States Foreign Affairs Committee, and the European Parliament have all said that ISIS is committing genocide.
A recent report from the Knights of Columbus, Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East, lists 1,131 Iraqi Christians killed between 2003 and 2014, and documents hundreds of attacks on Christians and churches.
One of those leading the Lords campaign, the Catholic crossbench peer Lord Alton, told the Catholic Herald that there is a “Catch-22 situation” in which the Government says declarations of genocide are a matter for the judicial system, but the judicial system is not obliged to examine the evidence. The amendment could oblige the Government to act.
Lord Alton said that although the UK is one of over 140 signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, “as things stand, it doesn’t seem to be worth the paper on which it’s written”.
If the judicial system does make a declaration of genocide, Lord Alton said, the definition “obliges us to both punish those who are responsible for genocide and to protect the people who are the victims”.
This would lead to a prioritising of asylum for victims of genocide: notably Christians and Yazidis, but also possibly others such as Mandaeans, Turkmen, and some Shia Muslims.
Lord Alton said: “To prioritise people who are the victims of genocide – the crime above all crimes, after all – would mean that you would then have a pathway where you would take people because they are the clear victims of what is underway. Rather than people who may be amongst the perpetrators of those events.”
He also hopes that Britain would table a resolution at the UN Security Council calling for the International Criminal Court to bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice. “Simply saying that we deplore what they do is not enough,” Lord Alton said. “You must always seek to bring people to justice.”
David Cameron said last year that Christian persecution was a “crucial” issue, adding: “We must stand together and fight for a world where no one is persecuted because of what they believe.”
In a letter last month, senior lawyers including four QCs asked the Prime Minister “to reconsider its position and to clarify why it operates a policy of refusing to recognize acts of genocide”. A similar letter was sent to the Prime Minister in December by over 60 parliamentarians.
Kennedy has cited the evidence of Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi MP in Iraq. “Her testimony is like a knife in the heart. Her voice shakes as she describes the slaughter of hundreds of men and boys, the kidnapping of women and girls from their families, who are then raped and raped again continuously over months, their vaginas and uteruses torn and shredded by [Isis] men who treat them like animals. Some of the girls are as young as eight and nine,” said Kennedy.
“A few who have escaped are suffering such severe trauma that doctors visiting the refugee camps are in despair. Vian describes the mass graves, the beheadings of children, the crucifixions. She cannot understand why western governments are doing nothing to help them when barely a day passes without news of further genocidal atrocities.”
According to Alton, a campaigner against the persecution of Christians, actions committed by Isis include “assassinations of church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversions, the destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike”.
This declaration should be supported by all progressive humanity:
The US secretary of state said extremist group is responsible for acts of genocide against Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims amid mounting global pressure.
John Kerry on Thursday declared that acts committed by Islamic State against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria are genocide.
The US secretary of state did not say how such a declaration would affect US involvement in areas controlled by Isis.
“My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” Kerry said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group. “Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions, in what it says, in what believes and in what it does.”
The announcement came amid mounting global pressure to declare the acts against Christians and other religious minorities as genocide.
The BBC reports:
Islamic State ‘committed genocide’, says US.
The US says the Islamic State (IS) group has committed genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said IS was “genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions”.
He also said the group was responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq.
“Naming these crimes is important, but what is essential is to stop them,” Mr Kerry said.
Mr Kerry admitted that a lack of access to IS areas meant the US did not have a “complete picture” of the atrocities that had been carried out.
He said the “full facts” must be sought by an independent international investigation.
The US, he went on, would “strongly support” efforts to collect evidence of IS atrocities and brings those responsible to account.
“The fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians, Yazidis because they are Yazidis, Shia because they are Shia,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.
“This is the message it conveys to children under its control. Its entire world view is based on eliminating those who do not subscribe to its perverse ideology.”
In France the film, Les Salafistes, has created intense controversy. At one point it seemed as if it might be banned. Now the documentary has been released, with a certificate than denies cinema entry to under-18s. In Saturday’s Guardian Natalie Nougayréde discusses the picture, which includes videos from Daesh (Islamic State – IS, also ISIS) and al-Qaida au Maghreb islamique (AQMI), with interviews with Salafists (rigorist Islamists) and jihadi leaders (Les Salafistes is gruelling viewing – but it can help us understand terror.)
She states, “The most gruelling moment comes when an Isis propaganda films shows a line of captured men walking towards the banks of a river; jihadi militants then shoot them in the head, one by one. The waters of the river start flowing with blood. And we see the pleading, panic-stricken faces of Isis’s victims, filmed close-up just before they are killed.”
Nougayréde considers that Les Salafistes “opens our eyes to a fanatical world”, that we “need to understand that ideology, however twisted and repulsive” Claude Lanzmann – the director the monumental film on the Holocaust, Shoah, she notes, has defended the film and asked for the age limit to be withdrawn. The screen shows better than any book the reality of the most fanatical form of Islamism. Lemine Ould M. Salem et François Margolin, have created a “chef d’oeuvre”. Its formal beauty brings into sharp relief the brutality of the Islamists, and “everyday life under the Sharia in Timbuktu, Mauritania, in Mali, Tunisia (in areas which have been under AQMI occupation or influence), and in Iraq. The age restriction on entry should go. (Fleur Pellerin, ne privez pas les jeunes du film, Salafistes! Le Monde 29.1.16.)
Lanzmann also argues (which the Guardian columnist does not cite) that Les Salafistes shows that “any hope of change, any improvement, any understanding” with the violent Islamists it portrays, is “futile and illusory”.
In yesterday’s Le Monde (30. 1.16) there is a fuller account of Les Salafistes and the controversies surrounding it, as well as on Made in France a thriller that imagined a jihadist cell preparing an attack on Paris. With a planned release in November, as the Paris slaughters took place, it was withdrawn and now will be available only on VOD (View on Demand).
Timbuktu not les Salafistes.
Saturday’s Le Monde Editorial recommends seeing the 2014 fiction Timbuktu rather than Les Salafistes. The Islamic State has already paraded its murders and tortures before the world. Its “exhibitionnisme de l’horreur” poses a serious challenge to societies that value freedom of expression. In the past crimes against humanity, by Stain, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Pol Pot or Pinochet, were carried out in secret. The Nazis or the Khmer Rouge’s propaganda was designed to hide the reality of genocide; Daesh’s videos are explicit and open, produced to terrorise their enemies and to rouse the spirits of their supporters. Margolin and Salem’s film does not, the Editorial argues, offer a sufficiently clear critical approach for a non-specialist audience. The victims only speak under the eyes of their butchers. The drama Timbuktu, where ordinary people in the city of that name are shown grappling with the everyday despotism of AQIM occupation – the rigorous application of the Islamists’ version of the Sharia, is a better way of thinking through the phenomenon of Jihadism. Its quiet and subversive message, the simple acts of playing prohibited music and smoking (banned), many would agree, unravels the absurdity and cruelty – the callous stoning of an ‘adulterous’ couple – of Islamism on a human scale.
Le Monde’s account of the controversy (La Terreur passe mal sur grand ecran) also observes that books about the Islamic State have reached a wide audience. They offer a better way, less influenced by the emotions that the cinema screen arouses, to understand Jihadism. It is equally the case that, through the Web, a substantial number of people have already seen the kind of horrific scenes Les Salafistes brings to the big screen.
The Empire of Fear.
Empire of Fear. Inside the Islamic State (2015) by the BBC correspondent Andrew Hosken is one of many accessible studies that have reached a wide audience. It is a thorough account of Daesh’s origins in the Al-Qaeda milieu and how it came to – separate – prominence in the aftermath of the US-led Coalition’s invasion of Iraq. Hosken has an eye for detail, tracing out the careers of key Daesh figures such as Zarqawi and Baghdadi. He challenges for example the widely claim that Islamic State leader Baghadadi and ‘Caliph’ was “radicalised” in a US prison in Southern Iraq in 2004. In fact “hardening evidence” indicates, “Baghdadi may have started his career as a jihadist fighter in Afghanistan and may even have known Zarqawi there.” (Page 126)
The failure of the occupation to establish a viable state in Iraq, the absence – to say the least – of the rule of law, and the importance of Shia mass sectarian killings of Sunnis in the Islamic State’s appearance. The inability of the Iraqi army to confront them, culminating in the fall of Mosul, were conditions for its spreading power, consolidation in the Caliphate, in both Iraq AND Syria, and international appeal.
Empire of Fear is valuable not only as history. Hosken states that by 2014 it was estimated that there were between five to seven million people living under Islamic State rule. “The caliphate has not delivered security, human dignity, happiness and the promise of eventual pace, let alone basic serves, but it has produced piles of corpses and promise to produce piles more.” (Page 200) He states that the “violent Islam-based takfirism” – the practice of declaring opponents ‘apostates’ worthy of death – has taken its methods from former Ba’athist recruits, always ready to slaughter opponents.
The suffering of those under the rule of Daesh is immense. “Men and children have been crucified and beheaded, homosexuals thrown to their deaths from high building and women stoned to death in main squares.” (Page 228) The Lion Cubs of the Khalfia, an army of children, are trained for battle. Even some Salafists initially allied with Daesh – with counterparts in Europe still offering succour to the dreams of returning to the golden days of the prophet, have begun to recoil. Hosken observes “..they have ended up with Baghdadi and his vision of an Islamic state with its systemic rapes, its slaves and concubines, child soldiers, murder, torture and genocide.” (Page 236)
The Islamic States efforts to capture more territory and people will continue with or without Baghadadi. The film title Salafistes reminds us that the Islamic State’s totalitarian Islamism is not isolated. It is connected to a broader collection of groups preaching rigorist – Salafist – Islamism, not all users of extreme violence, still less the public glorification of murder. The creation of all-embracing State disciplinary machines to mould their subjects to Islamic observance is a common objective of political Islam, from the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia to Daesh’s mortal enemies in Iran. The religious cleansing of religious minorities, Yazidis and Middle Eastern Christians continues under a variety of Islamic forces. Yet the degree of oppression and genocide marks the Islamic State out.
The recent Channel Four Documentary The Jihadis Next Door indicated that there is a European audience, however small, for Daesh’s genocidal propaganda. In Britain alone up to 700 people have been attracted enough by Islamic State death videos to go and join their ranks. One can imagine that amongst them some will be capable of watching Les Salfistes in a spirit far from the critical intentions of the film’s directors. It is to be doubted that they would have been reached by the scorn for Islamist rule and the resilience of humanity displayed in Timbuktu.
Hosken concludes, the “group may end up destroying itself or being destroyed by its many enemies. However, whatever happens, its virulent ideology looks likely to survive in a Middle East now riven by sectarian division, injustice, war and authoritarianism,” (Page 257)
The British left, with no government at its command, is not in a position to negotiate in efforts that try to bring “security, justice dignity and peace to a deeply troubled region”. We have little leverage over Bashar Assad’s own despotism in Syria. But we may be able to help Syrian democrats, and those fighting the Islamic State, to give our support to those fighting for dear life for freedom – from the Kurds to Arab and Turkish democrats – by ensuring that there is no quarter given to Daesh’s Salafist allies in Europe and totalitarian Islamists of any kind, independently and against those who see the Syrian Ba’athists as an ultimate rampart against IS.
To defend human rights we need to align with the staunchest adversaries of all forms of oppression, the secularists, the humanists, the democratic left, and, above all, our Kurdish and Arab sisters and brothers who, with great courage, face Daesh every day on the battle field.