Question and Answer on “Beyond Religion: ISIS and the Crisis in the Middle East”


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Zanan TV

15 October 2014


Question and Answer on “Beyond Religion: ISIS and the Crisis in the Middle East”

This is a Zanan TV production on the event hosted by SOAS Students’ Union in association with the LMEI and the Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS on 26th September 2014. There are four speakers, specialised in the Middle East, addressing ISIS and the recent crisis in the Middle East:

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Chair: Dr. Hassan Hakimian, Director of London Middle East Institute at SOAS, University of London.

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Ghias Aljundi: ‘ISIS and the Syrian cause’, Syrian writer and human rights activist.

The talk will discuss the emergence of ISIS in Syria and its expansion. It will also address the role of the Syrian regime and regional powers. Finally, the talk will also reflect on the damage ISIS has caused to the Syrian cause.

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Charles Tripp: ‘Iraq: the rentier Caliphate‘, Professor of Politics at Oriental and African Studies, University of London and a Fellow of the British Academy.

The talk will address the political economy of Iraq in which it emerged and how it reflects many features of that political economy. This is intended as an antidote to the focus on religiosity, ideology and identity that has largely been framed in the terms set by Da`ash itself.

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Nadje Al-Ali: ‘Gender, Violence and Minorities’, Professor of Gender Studies at SOAS, University of London

The talk will address the issue of gender-based violence and violence against religious and ethnic minorities in the context of Da’ash (ISIS) in Iraq. It will also reflect on the difficulty to talk about women and minorities in a context where sexual violence is being instrumentalised by both sectarian and imperialist agendas.

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A question and answer session with the four speakers was conducted after the talk. Nadje Al-Ali began by discussing how some Iraqis were happy about the emergence of ISIS because the government marginalized and oppressed them for so long. “Whatever we decide here or what we think we so firmly know has real impact on people in Iraq.” Charles Tripp added that many twentieth century Islamic movements, such as ISIS, are products of the nationalist imagination. Factors such as identity boundaries, policing the public, and using women as weapons of war point to this. Later in the talk Ghias Aljundi says that he unfortunately sees airstrikes as the only way to contain terrorist groups and ISIS. This is because it is hard for him to see a plan with potential for the British to help contain terror in the Middle East. In the middle of the discussion one questioner asked if it would even be possible to contain ISIS. Another got a rise out of the crowd by asking: “Why should we limit or try to impede ISIS and not see what they have to offer?” Aljundi said that containing ISIS is manageable and that we don’t need to bomb Qatar to do it. Tripp said we created the conditions that brought ISIS about so there is a degree of responsibility to stop it. Towards the end Al-Ali spoke about how she’s tired of seeing outsiders hold all the blame for ISIS when Iraqi politicians who are corrupted are not held on the same level of responsibility. Tripp closes with, “I think the identification…is not so much an organizational network but rather, as in Al Qaeda in a sense, you declare your affinity with it to give yourself a bigger boost. To demonstrate that you’re not just a local group of malcontents but … actually part of a bigger movement.”