I wrote this post on my previous blog about concise facts to start understanding what is ISIS.

All over the news (besides the Greek situation) we keep seeing attacks of “ISIS”. ISIS attacked tourists in Tunisia, ISIS and the Charlie Hebdo attack, ISIS and ISIS. Most people associate ISIS with terror, chaos and terrorism. But most people do not know what it means nor why nor how it was created. The truth is that is not a group of people that wants to create chaos, it is an organized group with ideals, a structure and specific goals.

Before I continue with the explanation, I have to say it is a pity hatred for ISIS has created hatred towards Muslim people. Society is easily influenced by preconceptions and judgements, and it never hesitates before creating labels. ISIS is a specific group, Muslims are a huge community. I have good friends part of that community, with impeccable ethics. They are are amazing people whom I respect and admire.



It stands for Islamic State of Iran. Why the “S” at the end? Well, at first it was only ISI, then another word was added. To explain its history, I drew the following timeline (click to enlarge):


Once upon a time, the world was concerned about the threat Al Qaeda represented. Now, the world is concerned about the threat ISIS represents. The magazine Foreign Affairs considers ISIS to be the successor in terror of Al Qaeda, it “represents the post–al Qaeda jihadist threat”.[1] United States considers ISIS as a terrorist group. However it technically is not. In the words of Foreign Affairs: “Terrorist networks, such as al Qaeda, generally have only dozens or hundreds of members, attack civilians, do not hold territory, and cannot directly confront military forces. ISIS, on the other hand, boasts some 30,000 fighters, holds territory in both Iraq and Syria, maintains extensive military capabilities, controls lines of communication, commands infrastructure, funds itself, and engages in sophisticated military operations. If ISIS is purely and simply anything, it is a pseudo-state led by a conventional army.” Although this statement can be debated, I agree. Public International Law has parameters or “signs” that can identify terrorist groups. The reality is that terrorist groups, national liberation groups, insurgent groups, each has its own “theorical” characteristics that gives them that nature. ISIS does not fit the terrorist group characteristics.

I chose not to narrate the attacks made by ISIS (which are many),[2] because I am pretty sure people know or read about them. In this post I want to answer to several questions that came up my mind when first hearing about ISIS.


ISIS must have around 30 000 people. Basically, this group is made up of Sunni Muslims and foreign jihadists.[3] But they are not the only ones. Additionally, different sects, such as the Nigerian-based Islamist sect Boko Haram, have pledged allegiance to ISIS. There are people that want to be a part of ISIS and many countries have taken measures to prevent people from traveling to either Syria or Iraq, to keep them from joining.


They are not just a crazy group that wants to kill all around the world. They seek to establish an Islamic State in the Middle East ruled by strict shariah law, seeing other cultures as an abomination.

Their territory is managed by a hierarchy of governance structures that manage the day to day life of residents, collect income, maintain law and order and enforces its ideology of Islamic Extremism.[4]


Mostly, Syria and Iraq. Although some branches have expanded to Egypt and Lybia. You can see it clearly on the following maps. Their territory has actually grown in eight months:

July 2014 [6]


March 2015 [5]


I hope I clarified some facts. You may be still intrigued for some concepts as the shariah law o who are the sunnists, but that is a topic for another post.


[1] Foreign Affairs. ISIS is not a terrorist groupk. Link: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2015-02-16/isis-not-terrorist-group

[2] NBC News. ISIS Terror. Link: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror

[3] Infoplease. ISIS Explained. Link: http://www.infoplease.com/news/2014/isis-explained.html

[4] Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium. Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham. Link: http://www.trackingterrorism.org/group/islamic-state-iraq-islamic-state-iraq-and-sham-isis

[5] Business Insider. Fear of ISIS forced an unusual pact between enemies in Afghanistan. March 2015. Link: http://www.businessinsider.com/r-fearing-islamic-state-afghanistans-shiites-seek-help-from-old-enemies-2015-3

[6] BBC News. ‘Jihadistan’: Can ISIS militants rule seize territory? July 2014. Link: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28222872

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