ISIS has taken a toll on communities all over the world. We often see the devastating terrorist attacks in the West, such as the truck attacks in France and the Manchester bombing. However, we often forget that countries in the East are also affected by the militant extremist group known as ISIS. Recently, beginning in May of 2017, ISIS launched an attack on the Muslim city of Marawi within the Philippines. Although westerners often forget that Islamic extremists destroy more than just the countries they rule, it is a reality that ISIS does not discriminate– destroying countless lives regardless of their religion.
Who is ISIS?
ISIS stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Originally, ISIS was a branch of Al-Queda, another Islamic extremist group that was behind the Twin Tower attacks on September 11, 2001. Al-Queda’s goal was to destroy the Western world– they saw any non-Muslim as a sinner that deserved to die. ISIS took extremism to another level. This new terrorist branch wanted to attack and control not only Westerns, but also other Muslims. ISIS is willing to kill anybody, including the family of fifteen-year-old Diana Cheikh-Eljeilat. She recalls, “Just three weeks ago, ISIS militants shot my thirty-year-old uncle living in Syria once in the skull and three times in the chest. He survived, but my cousin was not so lucky– he was tortured and killed at the hands of this terrorist group.” After Al-Queda discontinued relations with them, ISIS took terrorism to a new level by labelling everybody outside of their organization as an enemy.
Although ISIS claims to be following Sharia Law, the leaders of that group are actually manipulating a religion of love and peace to seemingly support their acts of terrorism. Many often forget that although the Qu’ran does have some brutal passages, it also discusses an equality of women that ISIS fails to practice. The Qu’ran, nor the actions of Prophet Muhammad, declared that Muslims must force women into Burqas or kill their fellow humans. The Qu’ran actually tells Muslims to respect their fellow man and to only fight in self-defense. ISIS is an Islamic extremist group: they are to Islam like the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity.
ISIS in the Philippines
Recently, ISIS attempted to take a stand in Marawi, one of the few Muslim-dominated cities in the Philippines. They attacked their own people in a brutal five month struggle between soldiers, civilians, and brainwashed terrorists. After the long battle, the Philippines defeated ISIS, but not before the lives of many were lost.
It all began in May, when an extremist group that has terrorized country upon country and city upon city confirmed the fears of Filipinos all over the world. Hundreds of ISIS-affiliated militants attacked Marawi, spraying the city with shrapnel from gunfire and explosions. They killed hundreds, and displaced thousands, who ran from their homes to displacement camps to keep themselves and their families safe. The number of refugees increases by day. But now, five months later, has the violence and death and destruction finally ceased?
For Marawi, maybe. The death of Isnilon Hapilon, leader of ISIS-affiliated terrorist group called Abu Sayyaf, as well as other military leaders has put the terrorists at a significant disadvantage. The insurgency within the Philippines has lost all of the people that created the structure it needs to succeed. Although a small group, led by Mahmud bin Ahmad remains, they have lost the individuals who possess the ability to lead a war. Filipino military leaders assure that the area possessed by the remaining ISIS fighters is carefully contained and controlled. As President Rodrigo Duterte says, Marawi is “liberated from terrorist influence,” as of Tuesday, October 17th.
However, despite the end of this five month battle, the extremist insurgents have left open wounds on the people of Marawi and the Philippines. More than 1,000 people, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, were killed in the fighting. Over 300,000 people were forced to leave their homes and seek shelter in refugee camps. Although some families left home quick enough to take a car, many people had to escape on foot. It was a fight to stay alive– killing military leaders does not allow a person to forget one of the scariest times in their life.
Beyond the mental scars of the victims of this attack, the Filipino soldiers that fought the insurgents left the battlefield with both physical and mental scars. Each side acted fiercely with evenly matched technology; however, the ISIS-affiliated militants were happy and willing to kill themselves for their cause. Many soldiers saw the deaths of close friends and comrades, and the fighting injured even more. As of October, according to Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año, over 1,400 soldiers were wounded in action. Over 140 were killed. Nurses and field doctors were called to serve as the wounded, dead, and dying filled hospital beds. Surgery to remove limbs and bullets became everyday life for some. Luckily, the many doctors and nurses were able to save hundreds of people from death.
What is America’s role in all of this?
In early June, American troops were sent to the Philippines to assist in the battle against ISIS. American military leader General Padilla emphasized that the presence of the troops was only to provide strategic advice to defeat the terrorist group. Although they did not engage in battle, the troops carried rifles for self-defense, should anyone attack the base. Sending American troops, “very few” in number, according to Padilla, was only a part of the effort to continue the battle against ISIS. America, engaged in the war against terror all over the world, was pleased by the defeat of ISIS in Marawi. Despite the often rocky alliance between the U.S.A. and ISIS, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis congratulated the Filipino soldiers for their success. Next month, President Trump will be making a visit to the Philippines.
As American citizens watching the violence from afar, other countries around the world are acting to repair Marawi. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to assist with the rebuilding of the city. The United States has also donated approximately $15 million dollars, or P730 million, to relief efforts in the Philippines.
However, Marawi continues to struggle in recovering from the devastation caused by ISIS. We can assist the citizens of the war-torn city by donating to relief efforts, including the Red Cross. Since the war began, the Philippine Red Cross has been assisting evacuees gain the food, water, shelter, and medical supplies they need to survive. They even held a concert for the sole purpose of fundraising to rebuild life in Marawi. By donating to this organization, we can assist the Philippines from overseas.
To donate to the Philippine Red Cross, visit this website.