On Chemical Weapons and Red M&M’s, an Islamic State Fighter Defends the Cause
An Islamic State fighter justifies the use of chemical weapons and encourages the eating of red M&Ms.
Let it not be said that the Islamic State shies from passing judgment on all matters it considers under its domain, no matter how large or small. In a new series of website posts, a fighter and propagandist known as Israfil Yilmaz not only justifies the extremist group's use of chemical weapons -- but also gives his blessing for eating red M&M's.
Let it not be said that the Islamic State shies from passing judgment on all matters it considers under its domain, no matter how large or small. In a new series of website posts, a fighter and propagandist known as Israfil Yilmaz not only justifies the extremist group’s use of chemical weapons — but also gives his blessing for eating red M&M’s.
In a rare admission, posted Monday on digital platform Tumblr and highlighted Tuesday by SITE Intelligence Group, Yilmaz explained the morality of using chemical weapons. Last month, the United States accused the Islamic State of launching mustard gas against Kurds, who on Tuesday said they suspect it has happened a second time in northern Iraq.
The Islamic State has not denied the accusations, but neither has its leaders confirmed the attacks. Yilmaz all but did in his Tumblr posts — one of the few Islamic State militants to speak publicly about the use of chemical weapons.
One anonymous reader, concerned over reports linking the Islamic State to chemical weapons attacks, asked Yilmaz: “How is it acceptable to use chemical weapons and how is it kufr [a pejorative meaning disbeliever] to be in another group besides [the Islamic State] that is Muslim?”
Responding from somewhere deep inside the Islamic State’s caliphate, Yilmaz took the question in stride. The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he said, “uses chemical warfare on a regular basis these days, and nobody bats an eye – yet when [the Islamic State] captures it from them and uses it against them it’s all of a sudden a huge problem?”
“Fight them the way they fight you,” Yilmaz said.
His answer breezily and conveniently overlooked the global uproar two years ago when Assad’s troops were accused of using sarin nerve agent against Syrian rebel forces and civilians, killing at least hundreds. Although that crossed what President Barack Obama had earlier called a “red line” in the now four-year Syrian civil war, a diplomatic deal to ship Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile out of Syria was brokered by the United States and Russia to circumvent military intervention. The Obama administration claimed all of Assad’s declared stockpile was destroyed last year, but some may have been unaccounted for if, as Yilmaz asserts, the Islamic State managed to capture the remnants.
Yilmaz’s name is a nom de guerre. He is a Dutch national and former member of the Royal Netherlands Army, according to a New York Times profile, and proclaimed his allegiance to the Islamic State in May. He also has appeared on video training other rebels.
His account on Tumblr provides a glimpse into the psychology of Western adherents of the Islamic State, and Yilmaz takes to the keyboard with impressive frequency to answer his followers’ questions and bare his heart on matters both horrific and mundane.
After expounding on chemical weapons, Yilmaz responded to one reader who complained about certain candy being off-limits.
“U cant [sic] eat the red colored [ones] in M&M’s,” the reader wrote. “The red color is used from a [sic] insect e120.. Its [sic] haram… I know its [sic] sad to hear… But be strong.. Its [sic] harder than jihad haha.”
Yilmaz cheerfully put his reader’s mind at ease.
“If they weren’t permissible I don’t think the State would allow supermarkets to sell them? ^-^
I just had a bag :-)))
Just how the Islamic State is able to import M&M’s — or hold any sway on groceries outside its grip — is but one of the unresolved questions that perhaps should be put to Yilmaz to answer. More pressing, of course, is just how he can even indirectly confirm the militant group’s use of chemical weapons.
The acquisition of chemical agents by the Islamic State bodes most poorly of all for the communities at the center of Syria’s tug-of-war for territory. Assigning blame in cases of chemical weapons attacks on civilians will become harder as the deadly toxins fall into the hands of an increasing number of actors, most of whom will seek to blame others instead of accepting — and in Yilmaz’s case, proudly — the responsibility.
Social media can make it easier to identify the culprits of such attacks. In his weekend Tumblr post, Yilmaz did just that, confirming what many already feared of the Islamic State: that it now controls chemical weapons and will use them without compunction.
Photo credit: Dutch Broadcast Foundation
Henry Johnson was an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy from 2015-2016. Twitter: @HenryJohnsoon
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