How to Run a Caliphate

On 29 June 2014, the group that until then had been called Isil or Isis renamed itself Islamic State and declared that it had established a caliphate under its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Using modern tactics and archaic violence it had expanded the territory under its control at spectacular speed, seemingly unstoppably. Its ranks swelled and swelled with new recruits impressed by the scale of its victories. Supporters travelled in large numbers from North Africa and Europe to become part of the society it had pledged to create. Strict justice, revolutionary energy, old prophecies fulfilled: its millenarian ideology included plenty that appealed to young men of a certain type. Sweeping across Upper Mesopotamia, its fighters summoned up memories in the European mind of Timur and the Golden Horde. But these weren’t primitive rebels. They came – echoing American claims in Iraq – as builders of a state.

June 20

About Tom Stevenson
Tom Stevenson is an Independent North Africa reporter

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