If a picture tells a thousand words, this one speaks volumes.
A widely followed Syria watcher shared on Twitter a photo said to have been taken in Syria that shows a mural which in one large word declares the aspiration of the Sunni jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, an Oxford University student and a fellow at the U.S.-based Middle East Forum, who tracks and provides commentary on the insurgent groups, shared the image on Twitter Thursday.
“Khilafa,” reads the word painted in large blue letters, referring to an Islamic caliphate to which the ISIS fighters who have descended on Syria and Iraq from east and west dream of achieving one day. Thousands of volunteers have traveled to join the ranks of jihadi fighters trying to unseat Alawite President Bashar Assad and Iraq’s Shiite-led regime and establish in their place a territory guided by their strict interpretation of Shariah, or Islamic, law.
Many of the fighters and their supporters have stated a desire to spread their hardline rule beyond Iraq and Syria to the greater Levant — an area also including Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories — as suggested in the Arabic name of the group, which refers to “al-Sham.” ISIS volunteers have expressed a hope to spread the caliphate to Europe once they have achieved their goals in Syria and Iraq.
Al-Tamimi told TheBlaze that the photo was sent to him by a contact in Raqqa, the northern Syrian city where ISIS took control last fall and began immediately implementing Shariah and instituting anti-Christian decrees.
In an article published in September, al-Tamimi offered numerous examples of the insurgents openly declaring their wider caliphate goals.
Included in his survey was this chilling graphic that has circulated on pro-ISIS social media accounts from Syria, which showed large swaths of the globe under the black ISIS banner.
“Back then, there was a big contrast between ISIS’ messaging in Syria and Iraq whereby in Syria they were much more open about their true aspirations while in Iraq the messaging focused much more on an image as protector of Sunnis; now though there is more open expression in Iraq of ambitions for a Caliphate,” al-Tamimi told TheBlaze in an email.
Like most images emerging from Syria, TheBlaze is unable to independently authenticate the photo, but its content echoes messages consistently emerging from the rebel camp.