More than 700 were killed in Syria over the course of July 18-19, in what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) called the bloodiest 48 hours in the conflict to date. SOHR president Rami Abdul Rahman compared the violence to the gas attack in Ghouta last year, which he said killed some 500. The dead were mostly from fighting between ISIS and pro-government forces in clashes over the Shaar gas field near Homs. Reports of ISIS atrocities in Syria continue to mount. ISIS militants reportedly carried out the stoning of a woman charged with adultery in the stadium of Tabqa city July 18. SOHR said residents resisted ISIS pressure to participate in the stoning. (Asharq Al-Awsat, July 20)
If some Syrians are being driven by the threat of ISIS to support the Assad regime, a more diverse array of forces are mobilizing against ISIS in Iraq—including many (on either side of the Sunni-Shi'ite divide) who had resisted the US occupation. Among Shi'ite leaders now sending forces into the field against ISIS are Qais al-Khazali of the League of the Righteous militia, and Hakim al-Zamili, now heading one of the militias that splintered off from the Mahdi Army. Both were imprisoned on terrorism charges during the US occupation, but were later released by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government. (WP, July 18)
The banned Iraq Baath party has apparently issued a statement from clandestinity declaring war on ISIS. (BasNews, July 23) While Daily Beast asserts that Baathist insurgent leader Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri AKA "Red Skull" is now "allied with the so-called Caliph Ibrahim," as ISIS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is now calling himself, we are skeptical. The last we heard, he had forged an insurgent militia with fighters from the Naqshbandi Sufi order. And, as we may imagine, the Sufis are resisting ISIS in Mosul. We note that the dubious Daily Beast report is based on anonymous sources, e.g. "[a]n Iraqi officer stationed in the military's Samarra operations center."
On July 20, The Independent reported the last Christians in northern Iraq are fleeing from places where their communities have lived for almost 2,000 years, as a deadline passed for them to either convert to Islam, pay a special tax (the jizya) or be killed. This terribly grim news has actually occassioned one glimmer of hope—ironically noted both by the progressive Muslim blog Muslimah Next Door and the right-wing Islamophobic Breitbart. Both sported photos of walls (presumably in Mosul) spray-painted in red by ISIS militants with the Arabic letter "N"—for Nassara or "Nazarene," the popular word for Christians. Walls thusly tagged alert ISIS authoriites that the building is a Christian home. But some courageous souls with a stencil and black spray-paint altered the graffiti to read "We are all Christians."
We've noted similar examples of civil resistance to jihadism in Iraq and Syria alike, and hope to see more of this kind of thing. The secular civil resistance in Syria and in Iraq are the forces that progressives in the West must mobilize to support—now more than ever.
Meanwhile AFP and BBC News have made note of specious reports that ISIS has ordered all women in their territory between the ages of 11 and 46 to undergo female genital mutilation. Experts are said to be skeptical about the claim, noting that the supposed edict was issued in the name of "ISIS," while the jihadist organization has now officially dropped that name in favor of the "Islamic State." Opposition to FGM was a key issue at the "Girl Summit" that opened in London July 22. (Arab News) And January 2012 saw an unprecedented summit of Middle East women against FGM in Beirut. (Gatestone Institute) This is to be applauded, but neither the struggle against FGM nor against ISIS are served by "black propaganda" tactics.