By George Cook
The destruction that ISIS have caused in Syria and Iraq is going to prove hard to repair. From the saddening sight of the ancient city of Palmyra being destroyed to the vast number of towns and cities reduced to rubble, the grip of control that the terrorist organisation had over their territory was strong. However, in recent months, huge swathes of land have been reclaimed from the hands of ISIS. This has protected the lives of the countless innocent civilians, many of whom have had to endure much of their lives immersed in an almost never-ending war.
Whilst the lives of the inhabitants of territories reclaimed from ISIS should not be undermined, the prevalence of ISIS online and on social media is now far more extensive than it ever was before. Therefore, defeating ISIS in their strongholds is now less significant for the security of the world. Yet, its utmost importance for those on the ground is often hard to comprehend as most of us are fortunate enough to have not witnessed such horrors.
As recent as a few days ago did we see Iraqi forces reclaim the last major stronghold of ISIS. This was heralded as a major success around the world, not only in terms of decreasing the territory they control, but also to minimise their global ‘appeal’.
Shocking discoveries were made about the full exertions of their power and the murderous manner within which they governed. Mass graves were uncovered containing as much as 400 bodies. Murdered for their refusal to comply with the strict law that ISIS enforced, inhabitants of these territories were exposed to the frightening brutality of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organisation. Thankfully, those who remain are now free from ISIS’ reign of terror. However, given the death and destruction they have caused, it may be a little too late.
Assessing this situation globally is of vital importance. ISIS have carried out terrorist attacks in every region of the world. This signifies their ability to engage in a conflict way beyond the boundaries of the territories that they control. Much of this is abetted by the prevalence and accessibility of the internet and social media. ISIS now have a large number of accounts dedicated to purporting their message of hatred and terror. Alongside this, they even have their own media agency called Amaq, where they lay claim to the atrocities they have ‘successfully completed’. As a result of this extensive media presence, sympathetic individuals endorse and take notice of ISIS’ message to ‘massacre the disbelievers’.
Through this media presence, more and more people are listening to what ISIS have to say. And sadly, it appears that more and more are using this message to carry out terrorist attacks in its name. With dreams of reaching ‘paradise’, they commit suicide attacks targeting innocent citizens of often western nations such as the attack in Manchester. As such, in modern times it is not in the ISIS territories of Iraq and Syria where people are inspired to commit terrorist attacks. It is the internet where the brainwashing recruitment begins and ends when the heart and soul is extracted from an individual, so they are emotionally numb to the tragedy they are about to cause.
We must not forget the treachery and torment ISIS produce in the territories they possess. However, it appears their new territorial stronghold is not the desert landscapes of Northern Africa, but the vast expanse of the internet and social media.