Web-Dossier: A Glance at the Islamic State from afar: Islam and Politics in the South Caucasus

Web-Dossier: A Glance at the Islamic State from afar: Islam and Politics in the South Caucasus

The vandalism and brutal, inhumane use of military force against unarmed civilians by the Islamic State has shocked governments and people all around the world. The sense of vulnerability felt in the face of the unbridled savagery of IS rebels is a matter of discussion not only in the Middle East, but around the world, from the United States to China.

Nationals of many Western and non-Western countries are joining the IS cause and those that survive the fight will bring home with them extensive battle experience and new ideas about social and political life. The danger to peace and civic order, and the growing influence of this quasi-religious military movement casts shadow over the South Caucasus, which is not at all far from IS-held territory.

Driving a car from IS's de facto capital Al-Raqqah (Syria) to Tbilisi (Georgia) would take approximately 17 hours. It is not hard to imagine how easily the rebels could reach into the South Caucasus and recruit Muslim citizens from Azerbaijan and Georgia. And this is to say nothing of the entrenched jihadist insurgency in neighbouring regions of Russia's North Caucasus like Chechnya and Dagestan. 

Therefore the South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation has decided to offer reflections on the regional impact of IS from the point of view of researchers and analysts from the South Caucasus. Dr. Alexander Iskandaryan from Armenia, Dr. Sergey Rumyantsev from Azerbaijan and Dr. Ruslan Baramidze from Georgia explore the threats faced by the South Caucasus nations in regards to the IS both from outside – the "Islamic State" as such - and from within – how the movement might affect social-religious and political practices among existing Muslim communities in these countries.

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IS-held territory is quite close to Armenia, around 400 kilometers as the crow flies. The threats emanating from the IS have a geopolitical and regional component which are bound to be a concern for Armenia.

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A sad anniversary is upon us. The 29th of June marks exactly one year since the declaration of the global Caliphate - the Islamic State (previously the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

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The emergence of the Islamic State implies significant political and geographic transformation. Georgia as a territory is not in the spotlight of these changes unless appropriate conditions take shape, in particular, if they win a big number of supporters.