By Hakim Khatib
It is estimated that a number between 27,000 and 31,000 foreign fighters have been flocking to Iraq and Syria since the breakout of the war in 2011.
An updated assessment of the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq shows that there is a significant increase in the number of foreign fighters travelling to Syria. Data provided by the Soufan Group in 2014 estimated that the identifiable number of foreign fighters is approximately 12,000 from 81 countries. It was also believed that the number of foreign Jihadists coming form Western countries does not exceed 3000: “Around 2,500 are from Western countries, including most members of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand”, according to Soufan’s initial report on Foreign Fighters in Syria. Now the number exceeds 27,000 foreign fighters from at least 86 countries.
By Hakim Khatib
After five years of the Syrian war, we can recognize “four” conflicting parties on the ground – Assad, ISIS, rebel groups and the Kurds. Each one of these conflicting parties has regional and international backers, who ironically do not agree with each other about whom they are fighting for or against. The Syrian regime is backed by Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias. ISIS is backed by the flood of global Jihadists from all over the world. Rebel groups are backed by Gulf States, Turkey, Jordan and the US. The Kurds are supported by the US. While in the media, we always say “the Syrian conflict, crisis or war”, I wonder what makes this war that much Syrian. It is rather a war on the land of Syria, in which more than 50% of Syria’s population have been displaced, over 220 thousand have been killed, and many more have been injured or imprisoned. According to Amnesty international, more than 12.8 million Syrian people are in “urgent need of humanitarian assistance”. In addition to this humanitarian catastrophe, most of the Syrian land and infrastructure have been destroyed. So what is that Syrian about the Syrian “war”?
Resettlement Dynamics and its Impact on the Urban Structures across the City
This is the seventh article in our series on refugees. For more information on the series, please click here
by Ghiath Al Jebawi
This article deals with the accommodation of Syrian refugees living in Germany. Based on my personal experience living in a refugee camp („Heim“) in the city of Cologne (Köln), and based on relevant literature, the article will, firstly, address the different types of temporary residences for refugees in Germany, and, secondly, the process through which refugees pass while looking for a permanent accommodation. Thirdly, and most importantly, the article discusses the ongoing shift within Köln’s urban and social structure in the light of the emerging resettlement of refugees. Although the urban structure of Köln, like many other German cities, has a certain level of urban segregation manifested in the settlement of immigrant communities (Friedrichs 1998, p.1), I argue that, on the contrary, the resettlement of Syrian refugees shows coherence and dispersion. The article is accompanied by a mapping survey that investigates on the spatial aspect of the accommodation distribution.
by Hakim Khatib
When the Iranian revolution embarked against Muhammad Reza Shah’s regime in the late 70s, it wasn’t a social revolution aiming at changing the society, but rather a political one with legitimate demands similar to what Syrians once were looking forward to achieve in 2011. When all this started in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the most central and inspirational figure in the Iranian revolution was still in exile. This is a story that happened 35 years ago and we cannot but see the rhyming of its events with the current Syrian imbroglio.
by Hakim Khatib
Practicing politics within religious frameworks is more likely to increase states‘ fragility. While employing religious references in political discourses could foster positive outcomes such as avoiding dangerous eruptions of violence under authoritarian regimes, it could also increase the space for political and religious elites to instrumentalise religion for their own interests. Such patterns of instrumentalisation are more common in the Middle East; especially the dominant religion in the region is Islam, which enjoys a decentralised mode of function.
Political Instrumentalisation of Islam means ‚Islam‘ serves as a means of pursuing a political aim or relating to Islam’s function as a means to a political end. Like the Marxist theory views the state and social organisations as tools taken advantage of by the ruling class or by individuals in their own interests, Islam seems to function as a tool exploited by the powerful elites or individuals in their own interests.
Von Yassin Musharbash
Teil IX unserer Serie
zum „Islamischen Staat“
Last November, the media organisation of the „Islamic State“ (IS) published a video, the sole purpose of which was to prove that the „caliphate“ which the IS has established in June 2014 was in fact a proper state. The video highlighted a host of institutions in order to drive home the claim of real statehood, including examples like a working judiciary, a prison administration, a schooling system, and so on. At one point in the video, the IS claimed that it was also financially independent and had apt resources at its disposal, namely oil and gas.
However, while it is true that the IS controls a number of oil and gas fields in Syria as well as in Iraq, we have by now enough evidence to be rather sure that the economic base of the „caliphate“ is by no means sustainable.
By Yan St-Pierre
In 2014, two insurgency organisations stood out by their expansion, success and brutality: The Islamic State (IS) and Boko Haram (BH). The former emerged from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and became a major actor in the Middle East, its influence reaching beyond the borders of its self-proclaimed “caliphate”, while the latter spread its violence throughout north-eastern Nigeria, spilling over into Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Because of their still growing success, many wonder about a possible partnership between IS and BH. To this I answer that there is a connection, but no partnership. Currently, any evidence suggesting a partnership is circumstantial at best.
By Mathieu Guidere
Part III of our series
In the late summer of 2014, the international community watched helplessly as ISIS unleashed widespread serious human rights violations against civilians across Syria and Iraq. Of note, were the different forms of sexual abuse initially directed against women from the Yazidi community of Sinjar, but rapidly expanded to women from many regions and backgrounds. Far from being attributable to isolated incidents or to the behavior of a few individuals, the abuses were, and continue to be, part of the “sexual politics” implemented by ISIS in all “wilayas” (regions) under its control and endorsed by its military hierarchy. The abuses represent a clear example of the use of rape as a weapon of war, based on the “theology of sexuality” in a war zone. Fatwas and theological arguments inspired by the medieval practices of historical Muslim armies provide the justification for the policies and practices.
By Pieter Van Ostaeyen
On Thursday January 15, only a week after the bloody attacks in Paris by the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibali, Belgium was on high alert. In a raid carried out by police and security forces in the small village of Verviers, two alleged terrorists were shot dead, a third suspect was arrested. The action was part of a larger operation carried out throughout the country to prevent imminent attacks by a group of Islamists, some of whom were directly tied to the war in Syria and Iraq. In the days that followed it became clear that the prevented attacks probably were aimed at a high ranking police official. The terror threat level was subsequently raised to level three, indicating that the threat of attacks was imminent. What makes Belgium such a hub for Jihadis?
by Gerben Stormbroek
“We shall bring victory”. Those were the words of sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, on 25 may 2013. Usually these words would be directed at Israel, the sworn enemy of the Lebanese movement. But this time Nasrallah was referring to the fighting in Syria. That night Hezbollah explicitly chose to side with the Syrian government in her fight against the rebels in the ongoing civil war. Why does the Shia Islamic and pro-Iranian Hezbollah stand so firmly alongside the secular Arab nationalist regime of Bashar al-Assad? What are the consequences for Lebanon and what does the interference of Hezbollah tell us about the balance of power in the small and deeply divided neighbouring country of Syria?