Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

09 Oct 2014

As more partners join air strikes against ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, this Week's Roundup draws together analysis on the group's increasing influence in Africa and the Maghreb, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan. Meanwhile we look at the continuing violence in Yemen and how this has affected the country's vulnerable population.

Top Stories

Iraq: In a conflict often dehumanised by the brutality of ISIS, Balint Szlanko speaks to the Christians of northern Iraq in the wake of the recent invasion of their towns and villages. 

Algeria: The struggle between ISIS and al-Qaeda for leadership of the global jihadi movement is dividing the militant community in Algeria.   Geoff D. Porter examines the dangers this presents. 

Middle East and North Africa

Iraq/Syria: As prospects appear grim for the outnumbered Kurdish forces defending the town of Kobani against ISIS, we cannot afford to hesitate, says Jeffrey Goldberg.  Neither can we forget another minority group who have fallen victim to ISIS – the Yezidis – warns Matthew Barber. A new UN report documents ISIS' targeting of religious minority communities. 

Libya: A United States Institute of Peace report comprehensively maps the disintegration of Libya's security and justice sector from the Qaddafi era through the 2011 revolution to today. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the report, which analyses the key challenges facing the country in returning to stability.

Yemen: While some media reports have hailed the recent Houthi takeover of the Yemeni capital Sana'a as a 'revolution', violence and pillage speak of something different, argues Diana Moukalled. Taking a critical view of recent events, Amal Mudallali claims the Shia Houthi movement risks plunging Yemen into even greater chaos. Meanwhile the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre look at the conditions faced by displaced populations in the country.

Egypt: Throughout Egypt's recent political turmoil, the jihadi group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has been building in strength in the Sinai peninsula, frequently changing its modus operandi to remain out of reach of the Egyptian army, reports Al-Monitor.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: A new dataset tracking social conflict in Nigeria shows that at least 29,600 people have been killed since 1998, and that Boko Haram is the deadliest insurgency the country has faced in decades, resulting in at least 11,100 deaths since 2009. The Washington Post draws out some important conclusions. 

Africa: As the international community continues to debate the challenge of ISIS spreading its influence to other countries,  Simon Allison details the expanding threat of ISIS in Africa. Islamist groups are already operating on the continent, some pledging allegiance to ISIS, others to al-Qaeda while others are "going it alone".

Central and South Asia

Afghanistan: Since the 2001 US-led invasion, only a trickle of Central Asian jihadis have joined the insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan. But over the last year the number travelling to the distant battle in Iraq and Syria has been a comparative flood. Christian Bleuer examines the possible factors at play. 

Pakistan: The Pakistani Taliban has pledged its support to "mujahideen fighters" in Iraq and Syria. Hassan Abbas argues that while there is still little evidence of ISIS activity in South Asia, this declaration could indicate a wider shift towards a more sectarian jihadi narrative in Pakistan, particularly targeting Shia Muslims as well as Sunnis inclined towards Sufi thinking. 

Russia: John Dyer looks at what Sunday's suicide bombing by an apparent Islamist in the Chechen capital of Grozny means for the region. He considers whether the attack can be attributed to blowback from foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, or whether it has any connection to Russia's actions in Ukraine and Crimea, where Muslim Tatars oppose Moscow's aggression. 

East and South East Asia

China: Michael Clarke looks again at China's management of the Xinjiang and Uighur issues ( part 1 here), which has been seized upon by ISIS, making it a target for the group and putting the country in an awkward international position.

China: A disproportionate number of the Hong Kong protest leaders are Christian, with religious belief seemingly driving many adherents to activism.  Christian Caryl says that this should come as no surprise. The Communist Party regards religion, and Christianity in particular, as its greatest rival, keeping it under tight state control.

Myanmar: The plight of the Rohingya Muslim population in Rakhine state is again highlighted this week following a UN visit to Myanmar, meeting internally displaced people. Human Rights Watch continues to draw attention to this issue, highlighting its concerns over the proposed Rakhine State Action Plan and the effect this could have on the Rohingya.


International Action against ISIS: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty maps the 62 partners in the US-led coalition against ISIS, examining who is taking part and what they are doing in the fight against the group.

Terrorism: Jonathan Powell addresses the contentious issue of talking with terrorist organisations, touching on the need to look at long term strategies, address the grievances of the Sunni community in Iraq and build channels for dialogue with groups such as ISIS.


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