Here’s Your Need-To-Know About Isis

You might have heard about Isis a lot, but who are they? What do they stand for? What are they doing and where are they doing it? We give you the need-to-know...


by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

We’re all hearing a lot about Isis recently, and it was in the news today that a woman who’s been captured by Isis is so desperate for them to not turn her into a sex slave that she actually wants to be violently killed: 'Let those jets come to bomb us and save us from this situation by killing all of us' she told her husband on the phone, who in turn toldThe Mail on Sunday.

But there’s just so much happening at such a fast pace that it’s easy to have missed what’s going on with this one. So we’re here to give you your need-to-know on Isis; who they are, what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

What does Isis stand for?

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Another acronym being used is Isil – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, with the Levant being an area including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Cyprus, Palestine, a southern part of Turkey and Israel. This is a more controversial name for the group, as it indicates how keen they are on expanding their control.

And what do they stand for?

Isis wants the creation of a Muslim state across the Middle East where they can enact a particularly harsh version of Sharia law. Their intepretation is so extreme it includes killing apostates – people who refuse to convert to Islam.

READ MORE: Teenage Twin Girls Fly To Syria From Manchester To Join Jihadist Fighters

Who are they, anyway?

They’re a mix of: people who used to associate with terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda, (a group that considers Isis too extreme), rebel fighters from Syria and western fighters from all over – France, Australia, Germany and the UK. A lot of these fighters started off in opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, or as rebels in the fight against the Syrian government since 2011.

How long has Isis been around for?

They formed in April 2013, after Al-Qaeda in Iraq lost popularity.

**Who’s in charge of these people? Is it just chaos? **

It's not as chaotic as it would seem; Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who fought against the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, is the Isis leader. He’s had real-life combat training, which is one of the reasons Isis might be more appealing than Al-Qaeda to young jihadists. The leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a theologist, is a bit more bookish by comparison.

What are they doing?

As well as fighting Syrian troops, according to various reports, they’re killing dozens of Yazidis, a religious ethnic group with a population of about 650,000 in northern Iraq. If the Yazidis can’t get to safety via mountain paths, the men are being shot by death squads and the women and children are being held captive and tortured until they convert to Islam. Women and children are now petrified they'll be sold into sex slavery or forced to marry jihadists.


Why are they doing that?

To the Yazidis? Well, because, the Yazidis worship seven angels and one of them is a peacock. The peacock is a symbol of Satan in Islam, as in the Koran he refuses to bow to Adam (you know, the same Adam from the Bible). Muslims are said to see this as an act of evil defiance, Yazidis see it as a sign of independence. They’ve been called devil-worshippers since the 1600s, and have frequently fled to the north-western hills of Iraq to hide. As for Isis's actions at a wider level, there are loads of possible reasons why they want to create their own caliphate (Muslim state), but it’s fair to say that their extreme anti-western stance has more than a little something to do with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Who’s funding Isis? At first, the fighters going against the Syrian government were funded by those rich, oil-laden states like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Obviously they don’t really want to be involved anymore, so a lot of funding is now coming from the oil reserves Isis has taken control of.

READ MORE: Jihadist Fighters From Isis Are Using Social Media Just Like We Do

**And those western fighters, are they really from here? **

Yep, there’s a guy whose rap was featured on the BBC, a Primark worker and an estimated 600 other British men out there fighting for Isis. Just like us, they’re bragging about their lives via social media. Except their lives are very different. Oh, and when it comes to women, the twins from Manchester who fled their home in the middle of the night to join Isis, presumably to become jihadists's wives, are still missing. Plus, Isis might not use women for conflict, but they are using them to make sure that their morality laws are being followed. Like going into schools and arresting students and teachers alike for eg showing too much face in front of their veils.

What’s the West doing about it?

America has carried out airdrops over northern Iraq to get food and water to help the stranded Yazidis – who are being helped out by Iraqi Kurds (they’re Muslim, too, but with a different culture to the Arabic Muslims who are fighting for Isis) – but this can’t continue for much longer. The US has also launched strikes against areas where Isis have control.

David Cameron wants to team up with Iran to defeat Isis, saying something’s got to give and we need action ‘to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement’. He also pointed out that if Isis had their way, they’d end up occupying areas of the Mediterranean coast, which would put Europe at risk. He added that Isis militants could be readying themselves ‘to target people on the streets of Britain’.


Is it really going to affect us over here?

Well, some people might think that Cameron is only saying it could to justify sending troops in to combat Isis, but he wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it, right? It's not as if terrorist attacks haven't happened on UK soil before. And, in so many ways, Isis already is affecting Britons; there are, after all, hundreds of British citizens in Syria and Iraq, fighting for their cause.

And… is it anything to do with Gaza?

Not directly. It’s happening in the Middle East, only a few hundred miles north-east-ish of Gaza. However, Hamas, the terrorist organisation fighting on behalf of Palestine against Israel (in a conflict that has killed 2,000 people, mostly Palestinians), despite fighting for the rights of Muslim Arabs, doesn’t actually get Isis-certified approval, as they feel Hamas don’t have the authority to lead jihad. That said, the whole point of Israel’s existence is to give Jewish people a place to live; something that would be totally done away with if Isis took control.

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Pictures: Getty

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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