On Tuesday, October 6th , SIB-Amsterdam organized a lecture on the rise of the jihadist militant group Islamic State (IS) that has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq in its effort to establish a caliphate. The actuality of the topic and the quality of our speakers resulted in long lines at the front desk of CREA and eventually into a completely packed auditorium. Even after dozens of extra chairs were brought in to accommodate the overflow, there were still some people who unfortunately could not attend the lecture and we would like to apologize to them.
The first speaker of the evening was Jan Jaap de Ruiter, an assistant professor at Tilburg University who is specialised in the role of Arabic language in Western Europe and, in addition, writes columns for the ThePostOnline.nl about the recent developments in the Arabic World due to rise of IS. Having contacts in Syria, Jan Jaap de Ruiter was able to present very detailed information about daily life in Syria and Iraq. He especially focused on the fate of women and Christians living under the IS regime. During the last five minutes of his lecture, he was able to contact Abou Ibrahim al Raqawi, a young activist who had to flee the occupied Syrian city of Raqqa after IS threatened to kill him. His experience of the atrocities committed by IS, completely silenced the room.
Wouter van Atteveldt, assistant professor of Communication Science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam was the second contributor to the evening’s lecture. He illustrated how the power of images explain why the West is currently bombing IS, while it was not willing to intervene in Syria after the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. In addition, he stated that the infamous beheading videos of IS are, next to an open threat to the West, also part of a campaign to recruit young would-be jihadists to move to the caliphate.
The final speaker of the evening was Harmen van der Wilt, professor of international criminal law at the University of Amsterdam. His lecture concentrated on the possibilities of prosecuting potential jihadists in the Netherlands, who have intentions to join IS. Thereafter, he discussed the need for a legitimate mandate to carry out attacks on Syrian soil, since the Assad regime did not request for military support itself. Covering the developments in the Middle East from a legal perspective was a welcome addition to the lecture.
Taken as a whole, the evening broadened our knowledge and understanding of the problems created by the emergence of IS and once again highlighted the need for a solution. Unfortunately, the evening brought little hope that it will be found soon.