“Geographic Origins of ISIS: Darkened Shadows Overcasting Southwest Asia”


Thousands and thousands of innocent civilians were executed in just the last six months in Iraq. Bodies piled on top of each other, blood flowing out forming a river, this is the work done by the one and only, ISIS ( “Banco” ). ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known sometimes as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is a group of sunni and jihadist militants who are extreme Islamic fundamentalists trying to bring back and enforce ancient Islamic laws. Their goal is to wipe out other branches of Islam, such as Shia, and convert or kill anyone who are not of their religion  (“Rowan”). They are very well known for their brutal slaughtering of all men, women, and even children. Looking at the history of the Middle East, or more accurately, Southwest Asia, we can see that the three main contributors of the geographic origins of ISIS are the religious and ethnic diversities caused by the disregardful boundaries left by previous colonial masters, the sudden population boom, and the invasion of United States are what caused the formation of the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Many of the conflicts in Southwest Asia today are caused by the neglectful boundaries set up by the British when they left Southwest Asia after World War I.  This all goes back to a hundred years ago, in 1914, when the First World War started. Back then, Southwest Asia plus some parts of Central Asia and Southeast Europe were still a part of a state known as the Ottoman Empire. During WWI there were two sides: the Allied Side and the Central Powers. The Allied Side included Great Britain, France, and Russia, and the Central Powers consisted of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Having already colonized Egypt and India, Great Britain instantly started planning on their conquest of the Ottoman Empire right after World War I started, in order to expand their colonies in Asia (“Rowen”).  The Ottoman empire fell to an end a few years after the world war ended, leaving the British to divide up Southwest Asia. Without giving it a careful thought, the British randomly divided up the lands, leaving countries with diverse religions and ethnic groups that are continually causing conflicts within the region. Mingled religious and ethnic groups within a country was the result of the British drawing superimposed boundaries without giving them careful thought. Most people in Iraq are Sunnis, leaving the Shiites as the minority religion. The Sunnis live mostly in the north, Shiites in the South and the Kurdish minority in a very tiny part in Northeastern Iraq. According to an Arab scholar named Sa’d a-din Ibrahim, more damage and devastation has been inflicted on the Middle East by religious and ethnic conflicts than by all of the Israeli-Arab war combined. Because the members of ISIS are extreme fundamentalists, they are intensely aware of the religious differences in some parts of their country. Iraq, for instance, has a Shiite minority in the south, thus causing tension between the northern sunnis and the southern shiites (“Rowen”).

Relgious and Ethnic Groups in Iraq

The population growth rate in Southwest Asia has always been amongst one of the highest in our world, especially today. Currently, Iraq is growing at a constant rate of 2.23% per year. In the past 20 years, Iraq’s population has grown by a shocking 78% while Syria’s population has grown by 61%, according to the CIA World Factbook. (CIA World Factbook) A higher population means more resources such as food, water, and electricity are required to raise these children. As a result, young men start competing for jobs at adolescence, even before they’ve grown into a full grown man (“Chbosky”). Some children as young as the age of 6 or 7, also compete for jobs to support their family. This is a very important factor of the origins of ISIS, due to the fact that ISIS could be offering jobless people a job by having them sacrifice themselves to join ISIS. The population boom in Iraq and Syria causes the job industry to become more competitive. As the jobs are taken one by one, family supporters gradually become more hopeless and ends up supporting ISIS for money so they are capable of supporting their family (“Chbosky”).

The one thing the United States is very good at is intervening in conflicts they are not at all involved in, such as the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and of course, the ISIS conflict in Southwest Asia. In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq wishing to stop the conflict involving terrorists. Putting together everything that the U.S had done while they were over there, we can safely conclude that it was a waste of time and energy. The intervention made by the United states did nothing but make things worse than they already were before. More than 500.000 people were killed during the invasion (“Iraq Body Count”). When the United States left, nothing was changed, the conflict was still going on. So the 2003 Iraq invasion summed up in one sentence: the United States invading Iraq trying to suppress the terrorists but ending up doing nothing other than killing thousands and thousands of innocent civilians. However, despite the U.S failing to accomplish what they originally planned in Iraq, they actually worsened the situation. After the invasion, ISIS was even more determined to achieve their goal of bringing back ancient Islam and wiping out anyone who did not want the same. The U.S’ efforts were recognized and understood. However, it just did not work and they were no where near effective in this case. (“Stilt”)


How the British drew the boundaries, the religious and ethnic minorities suffer from mistreatment of ISIS and the majorities of the region, and because of the U.S intrusively invading Iraq and trying to get involved in their conflicts, we have led ISIS to its formation which has definitely caused loads of conflicts for the people in Southwest Asia in the previous years.  At this point, we see no end in this such a terrible case and a turning back is unimaginable. It would not be surprising to anyone if one day ISIS starts another massacre like what the Yazidis did a few years back and slaughter a large number of people, and the main reason behind of this is due to the foolishness of the Western world, randomly drawing boundaries and getting involved in conflicts that do not welcome them. Blessings are sent out to the thousands of innocent civilians that suffered from the brutality of ISIS. Such groups of people are like giants with dark shadows slowly swallowing up Southwest Asia.

Works Cited


Ma’oz, Moshe, and Dale Eickelman. “Prospects for Religious and Ethnic Conflict in the Middle East.” – The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 3 Feb. 1997. Web. 21 Dec. 2014. <http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/prospects-for-religious-and-ethnic-conflict-in-the-middle-east>.


“Geography.” Infoplease. Infoplease. Web. 22 Dec. 2014. <http://www.infoplease.com/country/syria.html?pageno=1>.


Rowen, Beth. “ISIS Explained.” Infoplease. Infoplease. Web. 22 Dec. 2014. <http://www.infoplease.com/news/2014/isis-explained.html>.


Conant, Eve. “Iraq Crisis: “Ancient Hatreds Turning Into Modern Realities”” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 18 June 2014. Web. 25 Dec. 2014. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/06/140618-iraq-shiite-sunni-isis-militants-maliki-borders/>.


“How Did It Come to This?” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 21 June 2014. Web. 25 Dec. 2014. <http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21604627-crisis-iraq-has-roots-going-far-back-history-recently-folly>.


Chbosky, Jamsheed K., and E.B Chbosky. “Defeat ISIS, but Let Iraq Split.” World Affairs Journal. World Affairs. Web. 25 Dec. 2014. <http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/defeat-isis-let-iraq-split>.


Stilt, Kristen, and Noah Feldman. “Analysts Discuss the Origins, Motivations, and Ambitions of Surging ISIS Movement (video) | Harvard Law TodayHarvard Law Today.”Harvard Law Today. Harvard Law School, 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 Dec. 2014. <http://today.law.harvard.edu/islamic-state-play/>.


Banco, Erin. “ISIS Executions: 1,000 Iraqi Civilians Killed In ISIS-Controlled Towns Since June, Hundreds More Found In Mass Graves.” International Business Times. 3 Nov. 2014. Web. 25 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ibtimes.com/isis-executions-1000-iraqi-civilians-killed-isis-controlled-towns-june-hundreds-more-found-1718076>.


“Iraq Body Count.” Iraq Body Count. Web. 25 Dec. 2014. <https://www.iraqbodycount.org/>.


Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency. Web. 15 Jan. 2015. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/>.


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