Islamic State’s business model
Might Islamic State (IS) be on the verge of setting up its own bank? It is in fact following the footprints of other terrorist organisations by trying to equip itself with the attributes of a genuine state in order to send the message to its sympathisers outside of Syria and Iraq that it is now in a position to provide them with work and assure their sustenance. IS is in fact broadcasting propaganda which aims to make its future foreign nationals believe that the towns under its control are now led by former Iraqi and Syrian officials, who have been employed for this purpose. It is true that some reliable sources have reported that financial professionals (coming from Arabic and North African countries) have been enlisted by IS in order to set up its own central bank with the intention of one day printing its own national currency. In short, IS is looking for backing and is trying to prove its worth with a budget which might be reaching billion this year, and which aims to ensure the basic needs of its citizens in terms of education, health, welfare for the most vulnerable, and the building of infrastructure.
It is nevertheless with an iron fist that IS is ruling the economy of the entire area that it controls, confiscating properties, requisitioning factories still in operation, and infiltrating the whole network of business and commerce. In order to do this it is reliant on its “missi dominici” who are nothing other than formerly ruined businessmen, ousted or previously behind bars, who are now laying down the law on key players in local economies. As such, in Deir Al-Zor, Al-Hasakeh or Raqqa (which has become their “capital”), these “traders” now control the entire Syrian granary, from transport to agriculture, and it’s them – IS – who determine the price of foodstuffs to be sold on the market. Inasmuch, the population living in these regions are not only not coping with the arbitrariness of prices which are devoid of all economic or financial logic, but they are also suffering abuses and even persecution.
It is first and foremost the women who, when they are not completely banned from working, must endure insufferable working conditions. From the ophthalmologist who must operate on an eye adorned in a burka, to the hairdresser who must purely and simply discontinue his line of work which is considered by IS as immoral. It is a massive proportion of these populations who are subjugated to IS, who have today lost their professional worth and whose sustenance is no longer assured in a situation which is aggravated by prohibitive water and electricity costs and by very heavy taxation taken by IS. If, according to observers, the markets are well supplied and trade properly facilitated, these goods seem destined only for IS adherents and militants, the only ones able to afford them.
In Deir Al-Zor for example, the price of basic products has rocketed up by possibly even 1000% in a few months, prices manipulated by IS whose strategy is to punish those who are not already enlisted. Fiscal deterrents, chronic unemployment and the prohibitive cost of foodstuffs have all been deliberately orchestrated in order to force the residents of these regions to join IS. It’s simple: the population is living off tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes while IS militants are entitled to meat and chicken. It is choreographed persecution whose express intent is to increase IS’s numbers, which is actually working since desperate and famished Iraqis and Syrians are increasingly joining their ranks. In Palmyra alone, 1200 young men are said to have joined the organisation in the space of a few weeks.
The opulence and comfort that has been shown off through various IS videos are therefore only to coax inscription, and are destined only for those who convert to terrorism. For everyone else, it’s hell.