03/23/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on March 23, 2019, Syrian Democratic Forces declared the Islamic State (ISIS) territorially defeated as the extremists lost control of their last hold in the Middle East. The final battle waged in Baghouz, Syria, which is located near the Iraqi border.
The battle in Baghouz led to the liberation of a number of individuals held captive by ISIS as part of the extremists’ genocide against religious minorities. Thousands of captives remain missing, and ISIS remains engaged in pockets of fighting throughout both Syria and Iraq. The resulting instability, combined with the massive amount of destruction left behind, continues to generate significant regional instability.
For the victims of ISIS’s genocide, the consequences of the militants’ ideology haunt and define every aspect of life.
“Life is like it has turned into something bad,” explains Joseph, a Christian who fled ISIS in 2014. “I am having psychological problems whenever I remember those incidents. We are alive, but we cannot enjoy life again. I feel like I am in a nightmare.”
“We are a minority, and yet we paid the biggest price of any group during these years,” adds a Christian woman who also survived ISIS’s genocide.
The possibility of an ISIS insurgency has many Christians and other victims of ISIS’s genocide concerned that the extremists’ territorial defeat is overshadowed by ideological longevity.
“ISIS 2.0 is something possible,” adds Majid, another Christian impacted by ISIS. “ISIS is still (here)… the only difference is that they threw down their weapons, and they will pick them back up at any weak point.”
ISIS was born out an insurgency and first rose to prominence in 2014, when the militants violently seized large swaths of territory across Iraq and Syria. They controlled territory stretching approximately 34,000 square miles, most of which historically belonged to the ancient homelands of religious minorities.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The territorial defeat of ISIS has long been anticipated and is most welcome news. During the height of their so-called caliphate, they introduced a reign of genocidal terror that targeted religious minorities who lived across their newly acquired territories. Many lives were lost in the difficult fight to wrestle territorial control back from ISIS. The challenges of moving forward are significant. Many ISIS members have escaped and melted back into society with their ideology intact. ISIS left behind a path of destruction severely affecting families, community, and infrastructure. Territorially defeating ISIS was an essential step. Holistically reconstructing the damage is perhaps a greater challenge, but one absolutely necessary for the future of religious minorities in the Middle East.”