A fascinating article by Aymenn al-Tamimi about Christian militias in Syria. Aside from the organizational and political aspects of this phenomenon, I find the iconography interesting, not least because some of it echoes what we see from Muslim rebel groups in the same theatre.
Jihadi propaganda nowadays is often very sophisticated, both in terms of messaging and technical quality. It was not always like that, however. In the 1980s and 1990s, jihadi magazines and book covers were sometimes illustrated by hand drawings and even caricatures. Hand drawings gradually disappeared as the cost of printing photographs declined.
I’ll devote several posts to this, but I figured I’d start with some examples from al-Jihad, the magazine published by Abdallah Azzam’s Services Bureau in Peshawar from December 1984 onward. The drawings below are from the first four issues (Dec 1984-Mar 1985). From issue 5 onward the hand drawings are replaced by photographs.
The first two are particularly interesting, because they are cartoons, which are very rare in jihadi propaganda. I suspect neither was produced by an in-house artist, but rather borrowed from other publications. The second one, with the rifle-swinging Mujahid and the big fist, is probably from a Pakistani source, because the word “jihad” on the fist is written in the nastaliq font.
From issue #1:
From issue #2:
Also from issue 2:
From issue 3:
and from issue 4:
A piece of “art” posted on Twitter by a foreign fighter in Syria. The word النذير means “warning”.
Regular readers of this Tumblr will be familiar by now with the typical scenes from life inside jihadi groups like Islamic State. Recently I started compiling pictures from inside the Saudi military deployed in Yemen for the sake of comparison. I knew there would be many similarities, but I didn’t realise quite how similar the scenes would be. Frankly, if you swap the green Saudi flags for black ones, there is virtually no difference in the iconography and practices displayed in these pictures compared to the jihadi ones. The only slight difference I can spot, aside from the clothing and the hardware, is that the Saudi soldiers are using different hand gestures; they give thumbs up and V-signs where jihadis would point their index finger up. It’s worth noting that the Saudi government, when tweeting these pictures, refers to these soldiers as murabitun (frontier guards), just like the jihadis. This goes to show that many aspects of jihadi culture are not innovations, but traditional or mainstream practices in parts of the Muslim world.
New IS colour combo – yellow on orange. Victims are shiite militia members
Pro-IS murals in Dayr al-Zur