Aleppo – Syrian rebels, backed by Turkey, took the town of Dabiq on Sunday. The Islamic State (ISIS) had promised that a final apocalyptic battle between the Muslims and unbelievers would take place in the town but instead withdrew. Reinterpreting a prophetic hadith, ISIS changed the name of its jihadi magazine from Dabiq to Roumiya.
According to analysts, the fall of Dabiq into rebel hands is symbolic. Aymenn Al-Tamimi, a research fellow at the Middle East Forum told ARA News: “It’s not strategic, but more symbolic. It’s just a village in northern Aleppo ISIS used as an economic crossing for outside visitors.”
“Dabiq has a theological importance in the Salafist narrative and particularly in that of ISIS. Its capture by Turkey-backed fighters therefore increases the credibility of these groups in the overall Syrian context,” Ceng Sagnic, a researcher with the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, told ARA News.
According to Tamimi, the fall of Dabiq was expected, and that’s why ISIS renamed its magazine to Roumiya. “Well Roumiya means Rome. I think the renaming happened for multiple reasons: There has been an overall decline in ISIS’ media production and quality. The propaganda now is also more military focused, and you’ll notice Roumiya includes a lot of recycled content too,” he said.
Islamic State Propaganda
Dabiq magazine has been a major outlet for ISIS propaganda since it was first published through the deep web in July 2014. It remains one of the Islamic State’s most sophisticated recruiting tools, promoting their self-declared caliphate and placing contemporary events within Islamic eschatology.
“You know, if you watch ISIS propaganda or read their ridiculous magazine, you would think that ISIS is a land of sunshine and rainbows where there’s unicorns, you know, being ridden by Leprechauns, everyone’s happy. But then when you show up here, you realize that it’s closer to hell on Earth, right? It’s apocalyptic,” Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, said in April.
Last week, Colonel John Dorrian, another coalition spokesman, said that the ISIS propaganda is getting cruder and more repetitive. “It’s not very easy to produce the type of propaganda that they were producing early on. So we think that they’ll continue to recycle a lot of that old footage into new products. We’ve already seen them change the name of their propaganda magazine because [they] think that they’re probably going to lose the city for which their previous magazine was named,” he said.
“And essentially, they’re going to revert to form. They started off […] as Al Qaida in Iraq and reconstituted and then turned into this newer threat,” Dorian continued. “What we’re going to see is them reduced back into a lower level threat.”
The Turkey-backed rebels are now expected to push south towards al-Bab city, in northern Syria. The Turkmen Sultan Murad Brigade tweeted that: “the Free Syrian Army mujahedeen [have] cleared the most important towns on the road to al-Bab.”