Daily Life in Raqqa under Isis
October 6, 2014 5:41 PM   Subscribe

"Vanityfair.com received the below text from a Syrian who claims Raqqa as a hometown[...]Artist Molly Crabapple has completed sketches based on the scenes presented in the source’s photos."
posted by OmieWise (36 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
"ISIS has largely deemed whistles to be non-Islamic."
posted by Jimbob at 5:51 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


This entire article has the stench of USian propaganda about it, complete with overtly dramatic ink splashes on the sketches to underscore the sensation of gulag-porn. I don't doubt the nastiness of ISIS, but let's see if someone can locate a more even-handed piece as a control.
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:19 PM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


CynicalKnight, Crabapple is the last person to be an apologist for US imperialism. She has been to Syria and has continued to publish material from her contacts among the rebels fighting the Assad regime, but now under a different one. You can perhaps doubt her source's bona fides, but there doesn't seem to be a flower-child counter-narrative that anyone can spin about ISIS. Even if they're popular, they are clearly savage by any standard.
posted by dhartung at 6:31 PM on October 6, 2014 [11 favorites]


This entire article has the stench of USian propaganda about it, complete with overtly dramatic ink splashes on the sketches to underscore the sensation of gulag-porn

What? Are we thinking of the same group that posts videos of beheadings? I'm not clear how these pictures can compete with that, ink splashes or no.
posted by OmieWise at 6:35 PM on October 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


I would call these drawings understated, if anything. If you want to be completely horrified, watch the Vice documentary.
posted by desjardins at 6:53 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't doubt the nastiness of ISIS, but let's see if someone can locate a more even-handed piece as a control.

No problem.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 7:24 PM on October 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Holy shit on many levels what a great piece.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:43 PM on October 6, 2014


You're reading my mind, Combustible.
posted by neuron at 8:48 PM on October 6, 2014


ISIS have been unexpectedly and shockingly successful. But to understand how ISIS managed to do that, one could benefit from studying Mao's theory of guerilla fighting. ISIS is essentially a guerilla force, and its success has to be seen in that context. They rely overwhelmingly on local Sunni support, without which, all the money they receive from wealthy individuals and sympathizers in the Gulf States would not have helped them. They are indeed the quintessential "fish in the water". Mao's point was that successful guerillas move like fish in the water, the water being the communities that support them, and it is exceedingly difficult for other forms of life to exist in that water. The fish have a natural advantage.

And therein lies the tragedy and the opportunity. The opportunity is that the savagery of ISIS is also their weak point, and could be their undoing. Mao was very clear that it is essential for the fish/guerillas to form strong bonds with the peasantry, and alienating the peasantry was always a mortal mistake that would be punished severely. The forces of his opponent, Chiang Kai-Shek, by contrast, abused the peasants with high taxes and confiscatory policies. That proved to be an important factor in the ultimate success of Mao (and defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek).

ISIS are playing a very dangerous game. They appeal to their members (and sympathizers) by an adherence to a very harsh interpretation of Sharia. But by its nature, that has limited appeal as it speaks only to the true believers, who are always a minority in any high-demand system. Therefore, they need to supplement their power base with fear and intimidation - this works, but is itself necessarily time-limited. So what next?

Their harshness will alienate their allies very quickly - they will pollute the "water". Fear can be effective, but only for a limited time - no regime can gain legitimacy solely through fear.

Once the water turns against them, the fish are thrown out of the water, they can no longer pass through it, and have as little viability as fish in the desert.

And this is the tragedy - in interfering militarily, the West is preventing that natural alienation between ISIS and their vital Sunni tribe support. Nobody wants the hated West to come into the area and adjudicate between the parties. To understand this on a visceral level, recall, if you will, how GWB stole the 2000 election and how hated he was on the left for it. And yet, the vast majority, even of the left, would have strongly objected to f.ex., China proclaiming that since the election was stolen, U.S. democracy illegitimate and fatally flawed, they will come in with the force of arms and impose a different electoral system and result. Even GWB's biggest critics and political enemies would unite against this intolerable interference. Now, take that, and multiply it by a thousand, because unlike in the case of U.S.-China where there has been no tradition of China imposing its will on the U.S., the ME has a long and bitter history of the West doing that and much worse. Add to that the inevitable civilian victims of the bombings, and you'll turn the populace from opposing ISIS to supporting them.

This btw. has already been happening according to BBC interviews I've linked to before. Support for ISIS *rose* after U.S. bombings and rocketing. No doubt there would be those who would be happy with sending ISIS on their way, a great number would take the opposite view. And the longer such a campaign would go on, the more support ISIS would garner.

The U.S. military involvement would allow the fish to swim in the water. It would not be militarily effective against ISIS (see: years and years of ineffective bombing and droning in Afghanistan), and it would counterproductively strengthen the bonds between ISIS and the aggrieved Sunnis. The help the U.S. would be getting from the corrupt Gulf States would be a detriment and not an asset in the eyes of the Sunni tribes. It is doomed to failure.

Of course, being doomed to failure has not stopped this campaign and it will go on. Too bad, because ISIS are indeed bad people. Bad people who would not have been so successful in the first place, had we not destroyed Iraq and destabilized Syria.

And so, ISIS will sadly inflict a lot of suffering in the regions they control. As someone once said, "heck of a job", and you can finish that sentence yourself.
posted by VikingSword at 10:06 PM on October 6, 2014 [31 favorites]


This is such a little thing, and I know it's anglophone-centric as hell, but it fucking enrages me that they co-opted the name of a goddess that I happen to pay the occasional respects to for their bloodthirsty organization.

Like I'm super angry and frustrated and despairing about all of it, all these massive human rights violations, and I know western imperialism ain't gonna solve this, and there's no easy answers, but that shit sticks like a splinter in my brain.
posted by dogheart at 10:12 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Man oh man. We were much better off when Socialist Pan-Arabism united the young and dispossessed.

A future of economic equality for all! Versus whatever reactionary past these people are aiming for.

Anti-Hope, that's what ISIS, Daesh, whatever, embodies. It's worse than looking back.
posted by notyou at 10:53 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


The article mentioned Vice got a journalist inside Raqqa. Here is a link to that report:
https://news.vice.com/video/the-islamic-state-part-1

I thought it was pretty interesting, and much more informative than the drawings in this article. If you usually skip over links to Vice, as I have, I'd urge you to give them a chance on this one.
posted by bystander at 12:31 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Question re: Vice's ISIS documentary linked by desjardins and bystander above:

How graphically violent are those videos? I'm interested in watching them, but not interested in seeing video of hostages being beheaded, for example.
posted by syzygy at 1:19 AM on October 7, 2014


This would have sounded like weak scifi just a couple years ago, world is moving so fast. If you don't like your current dystopia just wait a bit.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:37 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


but it fucking enrages me that they co-opted the name of a goddess that I happen to pay the occasional respects to for their bloodthirsty organization.


You know that they don't call themselves ISIS or anything else in English, right?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 2:39 AM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I watched the videos a few weeks ago. From memory there was nobody murdered on film. There may have been a shot that showed corpses.
posted by bystander at 4:14 AM on October 7, 2014


No one's said it, but Molly Crapabble's work is just incredible in this.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 4:21 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, which is why I said anglophone-centric. But really it's a stupid thing to be irritated about in the face of, y'know, every other fucked up thing.
posted by dogheart at 5:39 AM on October 7, 2014


How graphically violent are those videos? I'm interested in watching them, but not interested in seeing video of hostages being beheaded, for example.

There's no violence as such. There is a fairly gruesome sequence (6:25-6:40 in the full-length documentary) featuring corpses with severed heads and heads on fence spikes. Another shot (27:50-28:05) shows the corpse of a crucified man. That's all.
posted by cincinnatus c at 5:43 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree with what VikingSword said. I'd add that bombing them is exactly - expressly, even - what they want, since missiles are as good as useless against them, and bolster their own propaganda. The videos targeted at our leaders are designed to goad them into a war they cannot win. I'm not sure who said it, but there's an adage that says "never do what your enemy wants you to do". Hard as it is to admit, the best thing we could do is stay out of it. Of course, that will never happen.

I'd also add that whilst the beheadings are horrific, few people know that Saudi Arabia publicly beheads people at a rate several times higher (some 345 between 2007 and 2010). I'm not convinced that ISIS are exceptionally brutal by regional standards. Many of their enemies (and our allies) do much worse.
posted by Acey at 6:02 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hard as it is to admit, the best thing we could do is stay out of it.

I'm pretty ambivalent about the whole thing, but I'm not at all sure you are correct. We stayed out of Afghanistan (for the most part) when it was controlled by the Taliban, and what we got for that was the 9-11 attacks. I don't think that you can put forward a cogent opinion about what our response should be to new failed-state terroristic enclaves if you do not take into account the full stakes of the situation. Again, I'm not saying that we are on the right path here, but I think it's clear that there are substantial risks to just letting ISIS go about their business unimpeded.
posted by OmieWise at 6:49 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


We stayed out of Afghanistan (for the most part) when it was controlled by the Taliban, and what we got for that was the 9-11 attacks.
You mean that time when some random mostly-Saudi Arabs recruited and collected resources in Arab countries, then stole planes and blew up buildings because they were annoyed about some stuff going on in Arab countries, including US military presence there?

Yeah, fooling around in Afghanistan would obviously have prevented that. Because, hey, those guys were kind of casual buddies with the Taliban, and their boss happened to be hanging out in Afghanistan at the time, and no way could he have gone anywhere else.
posted by Hizonner at 7:01 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yup, I mean that time.

If you've got it all figured out, maybe you could enlighten me?
posted by OmieWise at 7:29 AM on October 7, 2014


Sorry, but the burden of proof for your claims is on you.

My ability or inability to provide an answer to a problem has absolutely nothing to do with my pointing out problems in any purported answer anybody else supplies.

"We stayed out of Afghanistan (for the most part) when it was controlled by the Taliban, and what we got for that was the 9-11 attacks" is exactly as good an argument as "We didn't paint the WTC purple, and what we got for that was the 9-11 attacks". Neither one demonstrates any relation between the first part and the second part.

If you want to argue that some particular military intervention in Afghanistan would have prevented those attacks, or would have prevented attacks in general, or even might have reduced the chances of such attacks, then you need to give some actual explanation for why, because there is no obvious reason to think so.

That's even more true if you offer it as an argument for military intervention now in Syria or Iraq. Not only would you have to give a plausible argument for why the Afganistan thing would have worked, but you would also have to show why the present situation was analogous.

Normally we expect a good argument from the person advocating for a course of action, especially a course of action that can obviously backfire, especially when others have already given reasons against that course of action, and especially when it's a course of action that involves killing people.

Not knowing what else to do is a spectacularly bad reason for running around bombing things.
posted by Hizonner at 7:45 AM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


There's no violence as such. There is a fairly gruesome sequence (6:25-6:40 in the full-length documentary) featuring corpses with severed heads and heads on fence spikes. Another shot (27:50-28:05) shows the corpse of a crucified man. That's all.

I had to close the video at the 6:27 mark. When I saw the (4 or 5 or 6) severed heads on the fence posts that was all I could stomach.
posted by bukvich at 8:02 AM on October 7, 2014


Hard as it is to admit, the best thing we could do is stay out of it.

I'm pretty ambivalent about the whole thing, but I'm not at all sure you are correct.

Neither am I. Maybe working on cutting off funding and support would work... or maybe no matter what we do will backfire.
posted by Acey at 8:03 AM on October 7, 2014


Fish in water is one thing, but IS seems to very very well armed. I would love to see some investigative reporting on how they ended up with all the tanks, etc. Follow the trail from battlefield back to manufacturers. I assume a lot is from retreating Iraqi army units, but there must be many other pathways. I'd love to see some specifics. None of the NYT otherwise very enlightening infographics has touched on this.
posted by jetsetsc at 9:42 AM on October 7, 2014


Their harshness will alienate their allies very quickly - they will pollute the "water". Fear can be effective, but only for a limited time - no regime can gain legitimacy solely through fear.

Not sure this has been the case, and I don't see any inevitability that the situation will simply work itself out.
posted by Hoopo at 10:01 AM on October 7, 2014


I would love to see some investigative reporting on how they ended up with all the tanks, etc.

There is an excellent Frontline investigation on that called Losing Iraq. It explains exactly how we got to this point and I don't want to tl;dr it because I won't do it justice.
posted by desjardins at 11:07 AM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


There is an excellent Frontline investigation on that called Losing Iraq.
Thanks!
posted by jetsetsc at 11:49 AM on October 7, 2014


There had been a military intervention in Afghanistan during the time UBL was holed up there (a pharm plant in Sudan was also targeted, you'll recall). Clinton's cruise missiles missed, and domestic and international opinion was not in favor of more of it.
posted by notyou at 5:27 PM on October 7, 2014




How the hell did Vice News get such personal footage of ISIS like that?
posted by gucci mane at 2:53 PM on October 8, 2014


The Trouble With Islam [1,2,3]
[O]n the problem with contemporary Islam. What troubles it – utter certainty, abhorrence of heresy, the use of violence to buttress orthodoxy, the disdain for infidels – is not unique to it by any means. In history, some of these deviations from the humility of true faith have been worse in other religions. Christianity bears far more responsibility for the Holocaust, for example, than anything in Islam.

But the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries forced a reckoning between those coercive, reactionary forces in Christianity, and in the twentieth century, Catholicism finally, formally left behind its anti-Semitism, its contempt for other faiths, its discomfort with religious freedom, and its disdain for a distinction between church and state. Part of this was the work of reason, part the work of history, but altogether the work of faith beyond fundamentalism. Islam has achieved this too – in many parts of the world. But in the Middle East, history is propelling mankind to different paths – in part because of the unmediated nature of Islam, compared with the resources of other faiths, and also because that region is almost hermetically sealed from free ideas and open debate and civil society.

Let me put it this way: when the Koran can be publicly examined, its historical texts subjected to scholarly inquiry and a discussion of Muhammed become as free and as open in the Middle East as that of Jesus in the West, then we will know that Islam is not what its more unsparing critics allege. When people are able to dissent, to leave the faith, and to question it openly without fearing for their lives, then we will know that Islam is not, in fact, ridden with pathologies that are simply incompatible with modern civilization. It seems to me that until that opening happens, there will be no political progress in the Middle East. That is why we have either autocracy or theocracy in that region, why the Arab Spring turned so quickly into winter, and why the rest of the world has to fear for our lives as a result.

Western democracy was only made possible by the taming of religion. But Islam, in a very modern world, with very modern technologies of destruction and communication, remains, in a central part of the world, untamed, dangerous, and violent. No one outside Islam can tame it.
posted by kliuless at 10:50 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]






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