Confronting the Caliphate: Civil Resistance in Jihadist Proto-States

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Jihadist rebel groups that take control over a territory, claim authority over its population, and implement radical religious laws have become a rising security issue over the last decade. Generally brutal and authoritarian, the best-known manifestation of this phenomenon is the Islamic State (IS). While the IS has been decimated in the last few years, most analysts agree that the problem of jihadist violence is far from over, and that the IS may very well re-configure itself in a not so distant future. Moreover, beyond Iraq and Syria, the security threat posed by violent jihadism remains an acute issue. Yet no one has hitherto systematically explored the potential for civil resistance against jihadist armed groups.

In Confronting the Caliphate, Isak Svensson and co-authors Daniel Finnbogason, Dino Krause, Luís Martínez Lorenzo, and Nanar Hawach focus on a core set of questions: What can civilians, who oppose the jihadists' attempt to rule them, do to manifest their dissent? To what extent are civilians engaging in acts of resistance against jihadist rebel rule and what does such resistance look like? Does it matter, and can it in any way influence the trajectories of jihadist proto-states? New military and political realities in Iraq and Syria have opened up the possibility to generate new knowledge in areas where the IS has been pushed back. The authors draw from a novel survey on civil resistance against the IS in Mosul after the IS lost control of the city. This survey-the first of its kind-concentrates on the extent and character of resistance behavior against the IS. The authors also utilize contemporary Arab-language social media blogs and news websites in order to document protests against jihadists in Syria, and they also draw on interviews with activists and civilian in Syria and Lebanon who have lived under rule of jihadist groups. Importantly, they show that the international character of jihadist groups are often perceived as alien to local customs, thereby triggering resistance.

Given the events of the recent past and the potential resurgence of such groups, this book is a valuable intervention that not only shows us how jihadists rule, but provides the best explanation yet of how ordinary people resist jihadist totalitarianism.

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