After Dabiq defeat, ISIL launches 'Rumiyah'
By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo
After losing the symbolic Syrian town of Dabiq, also the title of its glossy propaganda magazine, the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) media machine quickly launched a new title under the name, "Rumiyah".
The new magazine appears to take the place of "Dabiq", which was abruptly discontinued after the defeat without explanation, experts tell Diyaruna.
As the group loses ground in Syria and Iraq, they said, it is attempting to promote itself on a global scale through the new title, "Rumiyah", which is the historic Arabic name for Rome.
The magazine aspires to be "a new icon for ISIL’s European elements", they said, and is published in several languages including English, Arabic, French, Turkish, German, Pashto, Turkestani and Indonesian.
Despite the change of title and the addition of new languages, the content remains much the same, however, setting out ISIL's interpretation of sharia, furthering the myth of its "caliphate" and boasting of the exploits of its fighters.
Downplaying Dabiq defeat
After the fall of Dabiq to liberating forces , "ISIL found itself needing more and more to get itself out of its Dabiq predicament by publishing a new magazine with a new name", said Mazen Zaki, director of the new media department at Egypt's Ibn al-Waleed Studies and Field Research Centre.
The group wanted its fighters and supporters to quickly forget its defeat in Dabiq, which it had vigorously promoted due to the northern town's strategic and religious significance, he told Diyaruna.
The goal of the new magazine is therefore to "revive its media propaganda and attempt to raise morale, particularly in view of the painful blows the group is currently sustaining in Syria and Iraq", Zaki said.
"Rumiyah" attempts to minimize the significance of the Dabiq defeat through the words of fighters it claims to have interviewed who call for "retaliation against the infidel West", Zaki said.
The magazine is filled with sharia-related articles, as well as updates from the various regions controlled by ISIL in what it refers to as its "state", he said.
The first issue included a photo of ISIL "Information Minister" Abu Mohammad al-Adnani , who was killed in northern Syria in August, he said, along with a "list of videos featuring the exploits of those the magazine refers to as mujaheddin".
It also included an interview with the head of ISIL's Diwan al-Shakawa (Complaints Office), who claims the group cares about all the complaints it receives, "including those submitted by civilians and prisoners".
"The objective is to give the impression that the alleged state is upholding justice in its territory," Zaki added.
Widely circulated propaganda
ISIL’s new magazine is published by al-Hayat Media Centre, which publishes its other titles, including Dabiq, Dar al-Islam and Konstantiniyye (Turkish language) and al-Nabaa newspaper, said Cairo University media professor Hassan Afifi.
"The magazines are noted for their state-of-the-art production and professional quality," he told Diyaruna, and are designed to promote the group’s ideology and attract potential recruits.
The publications are offered in pdf format so they can be easily printed and distributed in areas where access to the Internet is limited, Afifi said, with publishers seeking "to deliver them to the largest possible number of civilians".
"Rumiyah" is unlike other ISIL publications in that it is published in at least eight languages, he said.
The magazine heavily relies on "visual appeal through the use of colours, production techniques and the way it highlights headings, especially those that contain the names of the group’s leaders and emirs", he noted.
Through various media channels, including "Rumiyah", ISIL has incited against Westerners on the grounds they are "infidels", said terror group expert Maj. Gen. Yahya Mohammed Ali, a retired Egyptian military officer.
This rhetoric is directed at "lone wolves who carry out solo attacks", he told Diyaruna, noting that individuals who carry out terror attacks often operate as part of a cluster structure, but do not know the head of the cluster.
The group is certain "lone wolves" will read the magazine, he said, while for those outside ISIL, the aim is to "spread fear among people and create internal tension in the countries participating in the international coalition against ISIL".
Constantly shifting ideology
The ideology ISIL promotes and attributes to Islam is mere heresy, "whose aim is to spread fear in the hearts of the weak and recruit the weak-minded to fight in its ranks", said Sheikh Rajeh Sabri of the Ministry of Religious Endowments.
"ISIL seemingly changes the ideas it promotes after every setback it suffers," he told Diyaruna. "For example, we saw the complete collapse of the Dabiq symbol with the fall of Dabiq."
The group had vigorously promoted Dabiq as being pivotal to the battle that would herald the end of the world, he said, but has now turned its attention to promoting the term "Rumiyah", the Arabic name of the city of Rome.
"It is possible to link the term with the content of the magazine, which calls for killing those it describes as infidels in Western countries," he said.