Sunday, August 17, 2014

What the Islam State Is Doing to the Yazidis

The 16 August 2014 WaPo story “In Iraq, captured Yazidi women fear the Islamic State will force them to wed” gives a highly credible account that sweeps away most of my skepticism about reports on what the Islamic State has been doing to the Yazidis in Iraq. A downside of the denial of the most lurid allegations of mass rape is the revelation of a fearsome and chilling discipline and logic that must be a major source of the military and possibly state-building capacities of the IS. The discipline and logic unthinkingly accommodates universal male proclivities—the IS take the young, pretty females, and there is some sexual harassment/intimidation—but they also surely did result in some of the Yazidi women being able to communicate with their cellphones after their abduction.

Meanwhile, stories are replete on how neighbors turned on the Yazidis as the IS advanced, in an all-too-familiar pattern of pogrom/ethnic cleansing/genocide that breaks out when the existing social order is disrupted or swept away, temporarily or permanently.


Yakimi said...

Speaking of ISIS, what's your take on the Japanese man they captured in Syria?

He appears to work for a private military contractor based in Tokyo. He is acquainted with a few diplomats and politicians.

Do you think the Japanese government will pay his ransom? And are there any laws concerning private military service in conflict zones by Japanese citizens that could complicate his return?

Jun Okumura said...


If I had to make a guess, no, the Japanese government will do its best not to have to ransom the young man. For sympathy for this and other Japanese freebooters who get into trouble in Middle East combat zones typically runs low compared to the US and European equivalent for their nationals trapped in similar cases. (The US does not ransom, but will not hesitate to use force if it believes that it will be effective.) We Japanese have few historical connections to the region and Islamic society, and there are specific circumstances regarding this particular individual that runs counter to such action. That said, the Japanese government will do its utmost to negotiate his release, and some cash may change hands along the way, albeit strictly sub rosa.

The “private military contractor based in Tokyo” is indeed a very special circumstance. However, it appears to have existed mostly in his imagination/aspirations. The task of the Japanese government lies in convincing the ISIS/IS of said fact.