What is Daesh?

Daesh is a terrorist organization that is currently occupying areas of Syria and Iraq and seeks to export its terror system outside of the Levant (Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, etc.). It emerged from the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaida, developing in the country in 2006 and later spreading to Syria in 2011, taking advantage of the chaos caused by the Syrian regime’s sustained repression.

Daesh brings together Syrians, Iraqis and foreign terrorist fighters who come mostly from North Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Southern Asia and the Caucasus.

What does Daesh mean?

DAESH is the Arabic acronym for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”. However, this terrorist group is not a legitimate State, reflected by the international community’s refusal to recognize it as such. Its barbaric and terrorist actions are a corruption of the religion it claims to represent, actions that have been repeatedly condemned by the Muslim world and recognized religious authorities in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

What are its practices?

Daesh imposes its authority through extreme violence on territories seized by force. It survives mainly via illegal trafficking, namely of oil and antiquities, and the extortion of local populations. The terrorist group also brings in revenue from human trafficking. It enslaves – especially for sexual purposes – minority women and young girls and forces young men to join its ranks as child soldiers.

The terrorist group uses elaborate propaganda and highlights its support of certain tribes in Iraq and Syria. In reality, Daesh imposes its views on a non-extremist population and occupies areas that have no safe alternatives: in Syria, where populations fear massive bombings by the established regime in regions held by moderate opposition forces; and in Iraq, where populations fear retaliation as tensions among people of different faiths run high.

The greatest number of victims are Muslims themselves (Shiites and Sunnis), against whom Daesh practises a policy of terror that spares neither women nor children. Members of ethnic and religious minority groups are systematically persecuted.

Moreover, Daesh is deliberately destroying the world heritage of humanity, as evident in its criminal actions in the ancient cities of Palmyra, Nimrud and Hatra, as well as its destruction of the Mosul Museum.

What are its objectives?

Daesh asserts that Iraq and Syria are only the starting point for a “caliphate” founded on a fundamentalist interpretation of its religion and whose authority aims to extend over the entire Muslim world – and even beyond. This reasoning explains its strategy to gain the allegiance of jihadist groups outside the Syrian and Iraqi theatre (Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Nigeria, Caucasus, Afghanistan, Pakistan and others) and to call some of these groups “provinces of the Caliphate”. The facts invalidate this rhetoric: Daesh is contained, and is even losing ground, in Syria and Iraq, and its foreign “provinces”, which in most cases have no genuine territorial control, are essentially ordinary terrorist groups.

Furthermore, Daesh seeks to sow terror around the world through its communication strategy of broadcasting kidnappings and threats and via its plans for attacks, whether directly ordered by the organization or carried out autonomously by radicalized individuals claiming links with Daesh.

What threat does it pose?

Daesh poses a threefold threat:

1. To civilian populations in Iraq and Syria

  • Through the seriousness and scale of crimes committed by the organization in Syria and Iraq, particularly against religious communities and ethnic minority populations who have lived in the region for centuries. These acts have reached a level of depravity that has given rise to universal condemnation, as underlined in successive reports from the United Nations. They may be categorized as crimes against humanity, war crimes and perhaps even crimes of genocide over which the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction.

2. To the States of the region and elsewhere

  • Through its policy that aims to rally other terrorist groups (several of which have already pledged alliance to Daesh) and to create new provinces (wilayas) outside Syria and Iraq
  • Through the numerous attacks carried out in the region
  • Through the challenging of established State borders and structures

3. To France and its allies

  • Through attacks planned and executed outside the Levant; Daesh claimed responsibility for the 13 November attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis;
  • Through its propaganda aimed at foreign terrorist groups and radicalized individuals, who are encouraged to perpetuate numerous other attacks;
  • Through its policy to recruit foreign terrorist fighters;
  • Through its threats aimed at France and its citizens around the world.

Updated: 21.12.15