This is going to be my last post for this course and, instead of talking about what is currently going on in the world, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on these past couple of months. Taking Introduction to International Affairs has definitely made me want to educate myself more about current events.  I really enjoyed having a blog and the ability to talk about current events that are happening right now. Over the past five months, there has been a lot going on in the international community and, even though most of these aren’t happening right in front of our own door, they do affect us.

This year has started off with terrorists attacking and killing people working for the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and then going on a three day killing spree around Paris. The world was in shock but, looking back at it now, it seems that this was only the beginning. ISIS has especially been catching the attention of the world press over the last couple of months. They first gained media attention this year because they posted videos that showed them killing their hostages. The global community was outraged but that wasn’t all that ISIS has made headlines for. They have been destroying ancient artifacts and trying to get rid of minorities that are living in the area where they would like to establish their state.

So far, the international community has not really reacted to it. The Saudi-Arabian government, with the help of some other nations, has been bombing the places where they suspect the jihadists of being. Even though the Islamic State has been getting a lot of negative media attention they somehow were still able to recruit people from all over the world. Many of these new recruits are young men and women who leave their countries without anyone knowing until it is too late. ISIS does most of their recruiting through social media and other platforms online. Because this is such a new phenomenon, there has not been a lot of scholarly research and nothing has been proposed yet that could be a solution to stop this.

Overall, this year has definitely started off with some very scary events. The Islamic State in particular will continue to capture our attention in the future. I think it’s going to be an interesting process to see what happens next with regards to what the international community will do to address this problem.

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Even though this doesn’t necessarily have something to do with my major topic, I still believe that this topic is something that needs to be talked about because it is has evolved to become a major problem that the European nations are facing right now. Because of the economic difficulties that many African countries are going through right now, more and more people from Africa are deciding to go to Europe. Their hope from this is to improve their prospects while also sending more money to support their families. However, crossing the Mediterranean Sea proves to be more complicated for them than most would expect. Most of these men and women are not planning to go to Europe on a work visa or with paperwork that would allow them to legally enter the European continent. It is not that these people want to enter illegally but visa applications are expensive and take a long time and, even then, it is not guaranteed that they will be able to enter Europe. So, because they don’t have the time or money to wait for something that may not happen, they decide to go illegally.

This need has created a new market for smugglers to transport people across the Mediterranean and they charge ridiculously high prices to get these people across. In order to pay for that ticket, most people give up all their savings and all the money they have because they are hoping that, once they arrive in Europe, everything will get better for them. However, there is a big problem. The boats that are supposed to bring them over are not seaworthy and, because they are so overloaded, most of them don’t make it to the land. Just earlier this week, a ship with up to 700 migrants capsized and many are believed to be dead. This is not the first incident this year that has caused many deaths. These deaths are extremely tragic and, even though this is a known problem to the European nations, little has been done so far. At an emergency summit in Brussels, the leaders of Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany came together to find a solution to this problem. They were able to commit to sending naval assets to the Mediterranean. These might help to see these boats earlier and pick the immigrants up before something worse happens.  A real solution for this problem has not been found yet.

Personally I think it’s almost past due and that they need to find a solution for this immediately because so many people have died and it should not keep happening. Hopefully they will be able to figure something out soon.

Last week I was talking about ISIS systematically destroying ancient monuments to establish their nation state.  It seems as if this is not the only way that the Islamic State is trying to enforce its rule upon the people. A report from Human Rights Watch which was released this Wednesday shows that the fighters have been systematically raping and using sexual violence against one of the minorities in Iraq. This group is one of the oldest minorities that has been in this nation. However, since the rise of the Islamic State they have been called “devil worshippers” and it seems as if ISIS has made it their goal to persecute them because they do not share the same beliefs. According to the Human Rights Watch report, young girls and women from this minority have been systematically taken to end up as slaves, go into forced marriages or become gifts to different fighters. This has caused an uproar in the international community, which has caused the Islamic State to publish an article in which they explain that the practice of taking women and girls of the enemy is firmly established in the Quran. They went on to say that anyone who has criticized this would automatically be mocking the Prophet Muhammed and denying Islam. So far, activist groups and other organizations have not been able to do much to stop this whole process.

ISIS is not the first movement to use sexual violence against women to get their way.  The African based terror group Boko Haram has captured over 200 school girls from a school in Nigeria and quite possibly forced them into marriage or sold them as sex slaves.

As I am reading these articles and writing this blog post I am sick to my stomach. Women have always been treated as lesser equals to men and even though the Women’s Rights Movement has come far, especially in the western world, there is still so much that needs to be changed so that women don’t have to go through those terrible tragedies anymore. In my personal opinion, the use of sexual force against women as a tool of terrorism is not seen equal as the use of force against men for example. There have been many organizations and activist groups who have been trying to make rape a crime against Humanity and I think it is about time that it happens.

Every week there is more news about ISIS but with everything that is going on they often don’t even make the headlines anymore. However, it is extremely important that the world keeps an eye on this movement simply because it has proven time and again that it is extremely dangerous and will stop at nothing to reach their goal which is to create a nation state under their rule.

One of the actions they have taken to achieve this goal is destroying ancient artifacts that have nothing to do with their belief systems. According to the guardian, the militants ransacked a museum in Mosul where they destroyed priceless artifacts that are thousands of years old. This is not the first time that the Islamic State has done this and certainly will not be the last time. Just two hours later there were reports of ISIS destroying the ancient Iraqi city of Nimrud.  The group posted a video online where they are at first just destroying the artifacts within the city and then at the end completely bombing the place to pieces.

For ISIS, this is part of erasing a civilization that has been part of the current culture of Iraq. Those actions received a wide outcry from the international community.  The head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, said in a statement, “We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage.”  So far there has not been a whole lot of reaction from the political world. However, historians and other scholars are afraid that this may only be the beginning.  A historian was quoted saying, “It’s a crime against Assyria, against Iraq, and against humanity. Destroy the past and you control the future.”

It seems as if he may be right with this statement. ISIS has been trying their hardest to control the future and push their plan through. Destroying the artifacts may just be another one of their ideas to make this plan happen.

Here is a link to see the video of ISIS destroying Nimrud. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/04/12/video-islamic-state-nimrud/25667399/

Blog Audit

When we had to think about our topic for our blog, I was thinking of writing about Anti-Muslim movements, especially in Europe, that were going on at the time. Unfortunately, or rather very fortunately,  this topic has kind of quieted down during the course of the semester so I turned my attention to news involving ISIS because there seems to be a bigger threat coming from them then from those movements.  However, a lot of the posts that I made all had an overall theme which was about events concerning the Muslim world.

The reason why I chose to blog about ISIS more is because I realized that in order to understand why many people are starting to see Muslims as threats is to gain better understanding about the group that is causing all this uproar. I truly believe that if people had a little more knowledge as opposed prejudices some of these movements would not be happening. At the same time, it seems there are a lot of people that are getting drawn into this movement and are leaving their lives behind such as these three young girls that I was talking about in one of my blog posts. Of course, there is so much more that can be explored and analyzed in order to truly understand this movement and why so many people from across the world are joining them.

These weekly blogging assignments have been great. Not only do I get to blog about something that interests me, but it also gives me a great opportunity to explore more. In order to have an opinion about something, I believe one must be educated enough. Blogging gives me the opportunity to educate myself and also to gain better expertise in conducting research. It’s easy to just put something into Google but, in order to really get good information, it sometimes takes a little more than that. I think this assignment has us prepared fairly well for this upcoming paper that we are going to be writing.

Blog Topic: Current events in Europe

Topic on which you will be focusing your paper:  the development of the Islamic State Movement

Research Question:  How is ISIS able to recruit so many people, especially through social media, and what makes those people want to join?

In my last blog post I talked about young girls from Europe leaving their homes to join ISIS. However, it is not just girls and women who join, but also men who decide to leave their lives behind.  For everyone else, it’s incredibly hard to imagine what drives those people to become part of a group that is incredibly violent and extreme. Something that keeps being mentioned by the media in connection with the Islamic State is their use of social media to attract people.  Due to their social media presence, ISIS is able recruit many new followers, some of whom, have even decided to join the fight. Based on “The ISIS Twitter Census”, an analysis paper that was published in March of this year, states that as many as 46,000 twitter accounts were used by ISIS supporters between October and November of 2014.  Many of these accounts were in English, Arabic or even French and the owners of those accounts tweet much more often than other users. The enormous presence of the Islamic State on social media makes it much easier for people from all over the world to get involved with them.   In this new environment, the group’s media arm can upload its propaganda and see it spread globally in a matter of minutes or hours. Recently I read an article in a German newspaper that talked about a young man who went to Syria to join ISIS, but was able to leave again after deciding that he didn’t want to join in the actual fighting. He stated that, at first, he felt drawn to the Islamic State because of what he was reading online on their social media sites. However, once he arrived in camp, he realized that he was not ready to die the death of a martyr and was able to return home.

The incredible media influence of the Islamic State and their way of distributing propaganda so effectively has made social networks a very important asset in their fight to create their state. The question now is how the rest of the world responds to this. Compared to all the other actions that ISIS is taking, at least this one is out in the open and might be easier to get a grip on than the rest of the things they are doing. However, I haven’t seen a whole lot of reactions from the international community other than Twitter suspending some of the accounts. I think it’s time that we do something to stop ISIS from being able to recruit more people through social media.

Last week 3 young girls from Great Britain boarded a plane to Turkey to join the ISIS movement and to marry fighters. The three girls, between the ages of 15 and 17, are from London and told their parents that they were going to spend the day together when, in reality, they were on their way to Syria. The media has described them as “straight-A students” who didn’t seem to be in any danger. The girls were interviewed by Scotland Yard after another girl from the same school had joined ISIS last year and the recommendation was made that they were not in any danger. How is it possible then, that no one in those girls’ lives realized what was happening and how is it that these young women want to join a movement that is known for its brutality and violence? According to the Time there are an estimated 30 European women have either joined their jihadist husbands in Iraq and Syria or have gone to marry a fighter. These girls are not the first ones to have gone. There were two Austrian girls, aged 15 and 16 and 16-year-old British twin sisters who have gone.

It has been speculated whether or not it is the influence of social media that makes those girls join. At first, the radical movement highly discouraged women joining but rather urged them to support the movement by donating or getting their menfolk to join. However, when the movement came closer to its goal of establishing an Islamic state, they realized that women were   needed to help the state thrive. Their campaign to recruit women was mostly through social media and women who had joined the movement were the ones leading those sites. It is these women, for example, who connected with the 3 young teenagers from Great Britain and convinced them to come to Syria. It needs to be clear though, that those women make the girls understand from the very beginning what their roles in this new society are. One woman wrote on her Tumblr blog a quote from a Salafist website that states, “The best of women are those who do not see the men, and who are not seen by men.” The main role of these girls is to support their husband and to increase the Islamic state. Whatever the reasons are that young adults and women decide to join the radical movement, once they are in, there is no turning back.