Editor’s note: This post contains a disturbing image.
The photo of Aylan Kurdi, the drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy whose lifeless body was found washed up on a Turkish beach last week, is by now distressingly familiar. Published by hundreds of media outlets all around the world, the shocking images of the small child who died fleeing war and terror in his homeland has stirred the conscience and emotions of Europe.
So the photo’s appearance in the latest edition of the Islamic State group’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, this week is upsetting. But it is not surprising.
ISIS is highly media-savvy—and, of course, has no qualms about using the death of a child to warn about what awaits the children of other Syrians who try to escape its rule. The Dabiq article reveals—unwittingly—part of ISIS’s sensitive underbelly: Its deep concerns that Syrians and Iraqis living in ISIS-controlled lands are so desperate to leave that they risk death to do so.
ISIS, it seems, felt it had to issue a reaction to the claims prompted by the outpouring of emotion over Aylan Kurdi’s death, which said that Syrians were fleeing to Europe to escape ISIS’s barbarity. The militant group’s response was to warn Syrians that leaving IS-controlled lands is a “dangerous major sin” that will result in “one’s children and grandchildren abandoning Islam for Christianity, atheism, or liberalism.”