Radical Sunni jihadists seize territory, hostages

Fleeing from the Islamic State (IS), which seized dozens of villages to establish control over the Middle East, more than 60,000 Syrian refugees fled into Turkey over a 24-hour period on Sept. 20. According to Michael Stanton, history teacher, the group is taking advantage of both the funding it receives from fundamentalist Sunni Muslims and the instability in the Middle East to take political control of parts  of Iraq and Syria.

“A power vacuum exists in Syria due to the civil war,” Mr. Stanton said. “As [President Bashar al-Assad] has lost practical control over the majority of Syria, any group that wants to take territory can do so. Similarly, in Iraq, there have been political and sectarian divisions between the Sunni and Shia fractions.”

Simultaneously, IS has released videos depicting the execution of American and British hostages. The group has also violated human rights by killing the Kurds, an ethnic minority in Iraq. Thus,  it has been widely condemned by both secular and religious leaders worldwide. On Sept. 14, British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to take action against the group, while over 100 British Muslim leaders called upon IS to release the hostages on Sept. 17.

“[IS] has attracted a lot of media attention, especially because the hostages they beheaded were from powerful Western countries,” said Dustin Yoon (12), MUN member. “Though the gruesome nature of the actions might alienate possible supporters, it is still a way for the group to publicize its efforts to create a theocracy and recruit similar-minded jihadists.”

According to the BBC, a total of 40 countries, including 10 Sunni Arab states, have responded by agreeing to take part in an international coalition against the IS as of Sept. 15. More specifically, on Sept. 17, the US House of Representatives approved a plan that pledged to provide training and equipment to the moderate Syrian rebels opposing the group.

“I think that military containment will prevent [IS] from taking control of the oil fields,” Mr. Stanton said. “But the primary focus should be on battling the fundamentalist beliefs of [IS], especially as the organization cannot offer the ideals [people want], like middle class prosperity and health.”