Subjective Conditions for the Survival of the Islamic State

1 month agoANALYSIS

By Dr Ibrahim Sadiq Malazada

The Middle East has failed to replicate the political, social and scientific transformation that Europe underwent in the middle ages, a process that laid the fundamental groundwork for the French Revolution and later extended to European colonialism and the search for new markets.
According to Norbert Elias, the Roman Empire's collapse resulted in Europeans falling under the influence of numerous divisions that separated the European landmass over dozens of separate rival entities (1). These rivalries grew until they transformed into violent confrontations. Often the aim of these confrontations was the restoration of European unity.
During this period it was the conflict between Europe's noble classes and its peasants that played the most significant role in confrontations. These confrontations led to the creation of larger entities, a process that culminated in the 1648 Westphalia treaty. Many consider this treaty as that which gave birth to the modern international system, a system based on the preservation of the power balance in the international community.

In this regard, Habermas argues that “the nation-state system in northwestern and southwestern Europe developed in light of state regionalism as the nation-states were previously part of the European state system, a system which was accepted and recognised by the Westphalia treaty (2). This political and military process occurred at the same time as the Protestant movements, the Humanism movements, the European religious reform of the 16th century, the scientific period of the 17th Century and the enlightenment in the 18th century. 
For numerous reasons, the Middle East was not involved in this political and military confrontation that had engulfed Europe, as on the one hand the entirety of the Middle East, under the authority of the Ottoman Empire, was struggling through a dark period, which saw the Ottoman government crushing any political opposition within the region. The Ottoman Empire was able to utilise this strict policy to ensure its survival until the arrival of the European Colonialists.
The violent attempts of the Soran and Baban emirates to expand their borders of influence (3), even though they came much later, can be read as a similar conflict to that which was seen in Europe between the noble and peasant classes.  For example, In an attempt to expand his borders of control, Prince Mohammed attacked and captured the Badinan Emirate and Dasiny Emirate. Once he captured the cities of Kirkuk and Erbil, Prince Mohammed then attacked the Baban Emirate. However, he failed in his attempt as at the same time the Ottoman Empire had become alarmed at the battlefield successes of the Soran Emirate and retaliated by attacking it.  Awini Dawd explains: “After the attacks by Prince Mohammed his authority extended to the town of Shino in Eastern Kurdistan, to the edges of the Tigris river and to the Lesser Zab river”(4). The Ottoman Army confronted the threat presented by Prince Mohammed by launching an attack from Baghdad that settled in the Harir plains. The Ottoman army’s northern front moved in from Astana and settled in the Diyan plains. With these military manoeuvres, the Ottoman Empire surrounded the Soran Emirate, collapsing Prince Mohammed’s attempts to expand his Emirate. If Prince Mohammed had succeeded in his attempts, it would have been likely that today the world would have been home to a single (or numerous) Kurdish states as had the Soran Emirate held out until World War One then the European colonialist would have been presented with a very different geopolitical reality on their arrival to the region allowing for different terms in the region wide peace agreements. Such an outcome would have given Sharif Pasha (5) a much stronger position in foreign capitals in regards to Kurdish independence.

The continuation of the Ottoman Empire supported religiously by the Kurdish Princes, Sheikhs, Mullahs and peasants, allowed it to side with the Germans in the First World War against the Allied nations. This alliance between the Ottomans and Germans presented the Europeans with significant legitimacy to ultimately attack and collapse the Ottoman Empire. The subsequent arrival of the Europeans to the region and their colonisation of the nations that had previously fallen under the influence of the Ottoman Empire worked to dismantle the hopes of the Kurdish people among others as the Europeans set about carving nation-states out of the region and enforcing a new Middle Eastern order on the regions population regardless of the will of its people. With this, the Kurds of the Middle East were partitioned and parcelled out between the three new nation-states in the region. For the Kurds, this process led to their secondary colonisation by their respective host nation-states (6). 

Therefore it can be argued that the arrival of colonialism and the division of the Kurdish lands coupled with the tribal structure and the natural tribal rivalry of Kurdistan had worked together to remove any hope of Kurdish statehood.
It is this backdrop that has worked to create a perpetual unstable environment in the Middle East. What is more, the formation and development of violent groups in the region are one of the consequences of this instability. With this in mind, the military defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and the liberation of the city of Mosul on the 9th December 2017 that is widely considered to have marked the end of the group, especially considering the then Iraqi Prime Minister Heider al Abadi’s statement claiming that his forces and defeated the Islamic State and that the threat from them had ended (7). However, the reality is far different from the rhetoric, as the Islamic State has not only survived the conflict, but the local atmosphere that allowed for the initial rise of the Islamic State is at present riper for violent Jihadism that it was in 2015. Hence, the threat from the Islamic State persists (8). The conditions that allow for violent Jihadism, such as that of the Islamic State can be summed up in the below three points.

1)    The Political System and Region-wide Thinking.
The Iraqi State was established 98 years ago (9). Throughout its existence, Iraq and the other countries of the Middle East have been plagued by the question of whether it is an independent state or a project to serve the interests of its original colonial designers and planners (10). Prior to (from the Ummayad Caliphate through to Abbasid Caliphate) and after the establishment of Iraq, the regions Sunni Muslim community have largely enjoyed hegemony in the region and over al-Quraish (11). During this period all opposition was silenced as an absence of law, heavy taxation on the poor and little space for political participation was the period's markers (12). While it is true that the arrival of the Ottoman Empire distanced the Arabs from power, Sunnism as both a theoretical and systemised form (a system that allowed for Sultanism in the frame of the Islamic Caliphate) was able to survive (13). It is for this reason that under the Ottoman Empire marginalisation, the silencing of opponents, the absence of justice and heavy taxation on the poor continued. The system worked to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. What is more, it perpetuated the causes of illiteracy in the region and did not allow much scope or opportunity for cultural development (14), (15).

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the reduction of illiteracy and Turkism in the region, European colonialism (16) was able to dominate the region and once again reject the will of the peoples of the region by dividing the Middle East to serve their own best interests. The subsequent formation and establishment of Iraq on the basis of the nation-state system (17) allowed for the continuation of Sunni power and their leadership of the Quraish. What is more, it allowed for  Sunni power to resemble that which was present in the region prior to the arrival of European power, a manner that saw the marginalisation of other regional communities.

In this European colonial project in the Middle East, the Kurdish people were sacrificed for the sake of the Turks and Arabs and were parcelled out between the new nation-states of the Middle East, an arrangement that continues until present and that is a factor for the continued instability in the region. Moreover, it is an issue that has been used to justify foreign interference, war and destruction.
2) Social System and Regional Doctrine.
In continuation of the first point that addressed the survival of the regions political system, this point recognises that the political system carries numerous specific characteristics which are:

1)    The hegemony of the doctrine and culture of the region’s powerful states is so deep-rooted that it is an obstacle to the development of diversity, justice, the guaranteeing of fundamental rights
2)    The hegemony of common interpretations of religion and its mobilisation to assist in the survival of the system. Within this frame of religious interpretation, there remains no space for any other interpretations. What is more,  within religious 'Turas' intelligence and thought have developed in a manner that all 'Turas' are a part of religion and the rest in its shadow. This phenomenon in the absence of awareness has become the artery of political thought and regional culture. What is more, escape from it has become close to impossible.
3)    In the frame of the second point, it has destroyed the vision of the minority and divided peoples of the region to the extent that these peoples continue to renew themselves and extend those dark days, which ultimately amount to nothing and doesn’t allow them to establish new methods.

Today, Kurdistan has inherited these prominent Arab interpretations that dominate the political system, and for the Shi’a Kurds, they have inherited the interpretation of the higher Shia authorities.  These non-native interpretations of religion are not only present in religious doctrine but also in political doctrines which enter Kurdistan. In Kurdistan, it is very rare to witness a local political ideology take hold in the region.

3) The Lack of a solution to the Kurdish Problem

The continuation of the pre-nation-state political system, the political division of the Kurdish nation and its parcelling out to the new nation-states of the Middle East worked to turn the Kurdish nation into a political tool to be used by other nations in their political objectives and to dispossess them of any real hope other than that which drives them towards their own liberation. Nevertheless, this hope remains within the confines of the prominent regional political and cultural system.

Solving the Kurdish problem, its continuation in its current form, the fact that colonialism has negatively impacted the past, present and future of the Kurdish people, the extension of instability in the region and the continuation of the failure of the Middle Eastern nation-state system has worked to leave these states in a state of rot and decay.

After the collapse of the nation-state system and the enforcement of the nation-state model on the region under the hegemony of the European colonial powers the Middle East entered a period of instability. The system of politics, thought and society, the Middle Eastern religious doctrine and the continuation of the Kurdish problem are three of the main obstacles of the current state of the Middle East. In the frame of the hegemony of the doctrine and politics of the peoples of the region, the region is left in a perpetual state of potential conflict and inlight of these three factors, it is highly unlikely that the region will witness peace and stability.


[1] Elias, N., & Jephcott, E. (1978). The civilizing process (Vol. 1). Oxford: Blackwell.
[2] Habermas, J. (1998). The European nation-state: On the past and future of sovereignty and citizenship. Public culture, 10, 397-416.
[3] Al-Dawudi, A. (2003, December 22). الحوار المتمدن - موبايل (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});. Retrieved November 9, 2018, from
[4] Al-Dawudi, A. (2003, December 22). الحوار المتمدن - موبايل (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});. Retrieved November 9, 2018, from
[5] Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (Eds.). (2010). Borderlines and Borderlands: Political Oddities at the Edge of the Nation-state. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
[6] کۆلۆنیالیزمی ناوخۆیی، تێزێكی نوسەری ئەم بابەتەیە و لەچوارچێوەی توێژینەوەیەکدا ئامادەی چاپکردنە. مەبەستیش لەکۆلۆنیالیزمی ناوخۆیی، داگیرکاری ئەو وڵاتانەیە کە کوردستانییان بەسەردا دابەشکراوە.
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[12] Marefa. (n.d.). شعوبية. Retrieved November 9, 2018, from
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[17] Choueiri, Y. M. (2002). The Middle East: Colonialism, Islam and the Nation State. Journal of Contemporary History, 37(4), 649-663.
[18] BBC News. (2017, October 31). Who are the Kurds? Retrieved November 9, 2018, from


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