The wanton brutality of ISIS-witnessed through acts of violence committed against religious minorities and local populations in Iraq and Syria as well as Foley’s murder-is in direct contravention to Islamic principles and the Geneva Conventions, which mandate the protection of all civilians and prisoners of war. These inhumane acts by ISIS are a clear indication that the terrorist group is morally bankrupt and that their tactics undermine fundamental Islamic legal and ethical pronouncements on the sanctity of human life and protection of non-combatants.
CSID believes that failed policies in supporting the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people in the face of brutal dictatorship contributed to the rise and expansion of extremist groups such as “the Islamic State.” The ISIS phenomenon has been the most prominent manifestation of the increase in instability and upsurge in violence across the Middle East and North Africa in recent months, jeopardizing civilian populations. This upsurge includes Libya, where conflict between rival militias and reported bombing from Middle Eastern countries threatens to completely derail the post-Qadhafi transition, and Egypt, where acquiescence with the military coup, the toppling of a democratically-elected president, and the crushing of legitimate voices of dissent created the conditions for the largest single act of state violence in the country’s modern history – over one thousand people killed in one day – and the arrest of over 40,000 political prisoners, as meticulously documented by Human Rights Watch and other international NGOs.
In all of these cases, one of the most important contributing factors to the violence has been the inability or unwillingness of key actors inside and outside the region to support inclusive and accountable government. This includes the governments of the Middle East and North Africa region – some of which provide political and financial support to non-democratic governments and militant groups as a means of advancing their own agendas – but also key members of the international community including the United States, Russia, and Europe.
To counter these negative trends, CSID calls for strong support for democratic consensus-building and reconciliation, respect for human rights and international law, and proactive protection of civilians as the best antidotes to combat the rise of extremism in all national and regional contexts. CSID calls on all nations to support democratic transitions and greater respect for human rights, by all civilian and military authorities, and all armed groups. It is particularly critical to support more robustly the democratic transition underway in Tunisia and the faltering one in Libya. The signals must be clear; only inclusive democracy coupled with full respect for human rights offers a path forward. Democratization should not be sacrificed in the name of stability, of economic development or of defending the rights of any particular group at the expense of another.
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