If Islamic State doesn’t chill you to the marrow, it can only be because you’re not familiar with the group. They have been rampaging through northern Syria and Iraq for months, killing thousands and subsequently celebrating their brutality on social media. Their targeted executions have driven tens of thousands of the Iraq's Yazidi minority into the mountains to die. And yes, they bury people alive: "They put women and children under the ground. They were alive. I still hear their screams. They were trying to keep their heads up to keep breathing," reported 26 year-old car Yazidi repairman Dawud Hassan.
They even tear women, literally, apart: "They tied the hands of one woman to the back of a car and her legs to another car and they split her into two,” Hassan said of a woman who refused to convert to Sunni Islam.
The sickening violence of Islamic State has displaced more than half a million civilians, who are very literally, fleeing for their very lives. The militant extremists have also continued snaring women in the regions they capture; said women can either marry militants or face enslavement—we wonder if these options are that different under the harsh Sharia law Islamic State implements however. There is also the looming possibly of death.
There is nothing about the genocidal Islamic State that isn’t generally unthinkable. But the icing on this bloodbath is surely that they've begun to learn—with a chilling alacrity—how to govern and organize themselves.
Why is this Ability So Terrifying?
According to Foreign Policy, Islamic State has begun opening hospitals, building roads, and launching small-business programs to beef up local economies in a few terrorities under their control. They are currently feeding the populations in Syria that have been on the brink of starvation, and mind-bogglingly, the group even held a “fun day” in Mosul where militants passed out soccer balls and held Quran memorization contests.
Currently the Islamic State is “the best-armed and best-funded terror group in the world.” The more it succeeds in feeding, governing, and getting people employed, the less likely it is to received opposition from the populations it rules.
While it's hard to fathom a group that enslaves women, cuts hands off for adultery, and seeks to systematically slaughter entire minority groups winning over the hearts of its people, in some areas Islamic State has begun effectively collecting taxes and monitoring traffic. A goldsmith from Syria’s Raqqa, which has been under ISIL control for months, told the New York Times that the taxes are cheaper now since Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had control: "I feel like I am dealing with a respected state, not thugs," the goldsmith said.
Islamic State acting like and being received as a state? Garnering respect not only makes them more powerful, but increasingly difficult to combat.
That said, there are a couple bright spots. Kurdish and Iraqi forces—with the help of the U.S.’s targeted airstrikes—retook the crucial Mosul Dam in northern Iraq from Islamic State fighters, which Obama hailed as “a major step forward” on Monday. Iraqi forces have also launched an operation to retake Tikrit, which fell to Islamic State forces on June 11. Oh, and Iraq has a new prime minister—Haider al-Abadi—replacing Maliki, who’d long been embroiled in political crisis.
Sadly, these brights spots are rather dim in the grand scheme of things. Proof? The UN refugee agency announced today that it was planning one of its biggest aid operations in recent years, delivering goods via land, sea, and air. The World Food Program also announced today that it will be scaling up its emergency food deliveries, having already supplied food to half a million people since June. They aim to serve 1.2 million people by 2015; the scale of such of an operation in Iraq hasn’t been seen since the early 1990s.
Even the Pope Is Weighing In
"In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb 'stop.' I'm not saying 'bomb' or 'make war,' just 'stop.' And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated." — Pope Francis said yesterday.
Pretty much we should all just be worried as hell.