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June 17, 2014

ISIS militant forces take over more towns in Iraq

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The crisis in Iraq continues to escalate as the extremist jihadist organization known as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) captured another town near the Syrian border.

This follows ISIS’s march across Iraq, capturing strategic towns and reportedly committing mass executions along the way.

Families are fleeing their homes to escape the violence, with hundreds of thousands uprooted in the last week alone.

ISIS is an outgrowth of al-Qaida in Iraq, which emerged as a resistance movement after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Since then, al-Qaida have declared that ISIS is too extreme for them, and the two organizations have cut ties.

ISIS and al-Qaida proclaim an extreme version of Sunni Islam. The population of Iraq is majority Shi’a.

Islam split into two broad categories, Sunni and Shi’a, after a dispute over leadership of the Muslim community after the death of the Prophet Muhammed nearly 1,400 years ago. Today, there are many different types of Sunnis and Shi’a around the world, though Iraq and Iran are the only two major Shi’a majority countries in the region.

Some Iraqis feel the time has come to create two different countries: one Sunni and one Shi’a.

“[The Sunnis and Shi’as] are getting further apart because there are so many provocations,” said an Iraqi man who had just fled Kirkuk with his family. “As there are no wise elders, everyone is inflaming the situation.”

The U.S. is sending additional military assets to the region, though President Barack Obama is reluctant to send troops back into Iraq. He made getting out of Iraq one of his priorities in both presidential elections.

One of America’s historical adversaries, Iran, is also against ISIS, and has offered to cooperate with the U.S. military in Iraq. This is a controversial option considering the U.S. is still not on good diplomatic terms with Iran.

“We’re open to discussions if there’s something constructive that can be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and the ability of the government to reform,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.


Warm up questions
  1. Where is Iraq?
  2. Who was Saddam Hussein?
Discussion questions
  1. What is ISIS and what are their goals?
  2. How could a group like ISIS take control of such large areas of Iraq?
  3. What role is religion playing in this crisis?
Writing prompt

Imagine you are an Iraqi citizen living in Fallujah and ISIS has taken over your city. Think about your daily schedule including things like your job, taking care of your kids, buying groceries, etc.

In a narrative text, walk the reader through your day now that ISIS has control of your city. Make sure to think about what has changed and what has stayed the same. What fears do you have for you and your family? Finally, if you would like ISIS’s control over your city ended, who would you ask for help? Make an argument to them about why you deserve their support and be specific about what kind of support you are asking for. It could be anything to humanitarian efforts to supply food to a military intervention.

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