HUFFINGTON POST

10 Stories You Must Read If You Want To Understand ISIS

A selection of some of the best work from years of coverage on the Islamic State group.
Attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State group killed at least 129 people on Friday, bringing more attention to how the
Attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State group killed at least 129 people on Friday, bringing more attention to how the militant organization operates.

The terror attacks in Paris have brought a renewed focus to the intentions, beliefs and history of the Islamic State militant group. Since the group gained international attention following its rapid seizure of territory in Syria and Iraq in mid-2014, journalists and analysts have produced a huge amount of excellent, in-depth writing about it.

Their reports show how the group is not a faceless monolith but a highly structured terror organization with clearly delineated leadership roles. It did not come to existence in a vacuum, but was fueled by the instability and conflict in Iraq and Syria. It neither represents mainstream Islamic beliefs nor is it a state, but the group's workings are impossible to understand without considering its extremist views on religion and its desire for statehood.

Here are some of The WorldPost's favorite reads that provide a thorough look at how the Islamic State operates, what it wants and why it has become so prominent.

The Islamic State has existed in different incarnations for over a decade.
The Islamic State has existed in different incarnations for over a decade.

 

History

By Charles Lister

Charles Lister, author of several works on the Islamic State and other jihadist movements, traces the history and evolution of the group over the course of more than 15 years of its rise. The story is a sweeping examination of how the group's leadership has changed, and what spurred its split from al Qaeda.

Also read The WorldPost's interview with Lister here.

By Will McCants
Will McCants profiles the leader of the terror group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. McCants examines how Baghdadi went from a shy and stoic child in Iraq to an extremist leader, charting the group's rise along with him.

Also read The WorldPost's interview with McCants here.

 

By Martin Chulov
A look at the rise of the Islamic State and the important role that the U.S. invasion of Iraq played in its growth. Chulov focuses on the U.S. detention center called Camp Bucca, where according to former prisoners, jihadist elements were allowed to coalesce.

 

Ideology

by Graeme Wood
A detailed look at the ideology behind the Islamic State group, including its belief that it is bringing about the apocalypse. Wood talks with prominent supporters of the group, as well as offers a look at some of the major figures in its rise.

 

An interview with Hussein Ibish 
Following the release of Wood's piece, The WorldPost spoke with expert Hussein Ibish about the Islamic State's ideology and what separates it from other terror groups. Ibish argues that the focus on the religious aspect of the group is overwrought, and there are more nuanced ways of looking at them.

By Rukmini Callimachi

A report on the horrific amount of sexual violence perpetrated by Islamic State militants and the attempts to legitimize it in the group's propaganda. Callimachi shows the extent to which the Islamic State has instituted sexual slavery in the territory it controls.

The militant group has seized significant territory in Iraq and Syria, as well as spawned affiliates in a number of countries
The militant group has seized significant territory in Iraq and Syria, as well as spawned affiliates in a number of countries.

 

Operations

By Karen Yourish, Derek Watkins and Tom Giratikanon

A multimedia-driven look at the reach of the Islamic State group outside of Iraq and Syria, where it is most active. The data shows that the group has inspired or directed numerous attacks outside of its borders for some time now.

By Christoph Reuter

A series of secret Islamic State files acquired by Germany's Der Spiegel appears to show the important role of former Saddam loyalists in the creation of the group. A look at how the group may have organized itself and managed its goals of taking and ruling over territory.

 

By Rukmini Callimachi

The Islamic State group has recruited tens of thousands of foreign fighters to come to its territory, making up a significant part of how it operates. Callimachi looks at the tactics that militants used to try to convince one young American woman to join the group.

Also read The WorldPost's interview with International Study for the Center of Radicalization director Peter Neumann on foreign fighters, as well as Julia Ioffe's HuffPost Highline piece on mothers of ISIS fighters.

 

by Mona Mahmood

Mahmood speaks with women living in ISIS-controlled territory to describe a system of oppression that includes beatings, humiliation and fines if they do not comply with militants' extremist rules. A look at how the group imposes harsh laws against the population under its rule. 

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