The Syrian town of Dabiq is regarded by ISIS as the preordained site of the final apocalyptic battle between Muslims and Christians. It is also a name in which the terror group has invested heavily, naming its periodical propaganda magazine after the key site in northeast Aleppo.
The group has manipulated the prediction to try to sell the idea that they are fulfilling some sort of Islamic prophecy by fighting in Dabiq. They are using this narrative to entice Muslims across the globe to join their cause under false pretenses.
The terrorist group has been relying heavily on the narrative to convince its followers that ISIS is fulfilling the prophecy by claiming they are the Islamic army who will defeat the Romans (in reference to the West) in Dabiq, deluding followers into believing that by joining the group they are taking part in the holiest battle in Islamic history.
The excessive assaults which Aleppo has undergone over the past months - leaving hundreds of civilians dead and injured - has been pushed for to bring the international fight close to Dabiq. An ISIS defeat could bring an end to the religious myths with which ISIS has been surrounding itself since its capture of the town in August 2014. The city features in the group’s ghastly video depicting the beheading of American aid worker Peter Kassig. They called him “the first American Crusader” and threatened to fight other Western forces in the Syrian town.
The terrorist group placed their bid on their decisive battle in Dabiq and they interpret the losses they are facing by the US-led coalition and the high death tolls of their fighters as a sign of encouragement that misery will bring the ultimate victory in Dabiq.
The terrorist group sees in the battle a way to discredit and refute the claims of Shiite groups, mainly Iran and Hezbollah, that their involvement in the Syrian conflict is fulfilling the prophecy and setting the stage for the prophesied appearance of the Mahdi, as enshrined in Shiite ideology.
The excessive assaults which Aleppo has undergone over the past months - leaving hundreds of civilians dead and injured - has been pushed for to bring the international fight close to DabiqDr. Halla Diyab
ISIS has succeeded in slowing down the advances of the rebels by mining the area and has sent 800 of its elite fighters to defend the Syrian town of Dabiq, aiming to lure international forces to fight in the town to bring to life the mythical battle mentioned in the prophecy.
With Americans, opposition forces and Russia/Iran-backed government forces approaching ISIS’s stronghold, the gaze of all conflicting militant groups and world powers is fixated on winning the battle of Dabiq due to its symbolic and theological significance. For the Russians and the Americans, the fight for Dabiq is not strategic to the Syrian fight as the town has little geostrategic value, but rather it is considered a symbolic move to neutralize the myth of ISIS.
By militarily backing the rivals of ISIS in a proxy war, the Russians and the Americans are avoiding an on-the-ground confrontation with the group, firstly to deprive ISIS of the confidence that could be gleaned from a ground-level confrontation and secondly to refute the Islamic prophecy which posits the Americans and their allies as the Roman army, bringing ideological defeat to the group.
For the West, the battle of Dabiq is a form of psychological warfare that aims to destroy the terrorist group’s morale as it prepares to fend off expected ISIS offensives from Mosul and Raqqa.
Nevertheless, losing Dabiq to one of the conflicting actors might not deter the group’s resolve. ISIS will construct another narrative to justify its loss. The manipulation of the prophecy of Dabiq proves the ideological impotence of the terrorist group and how it falsified prophesies to suit its geopolitical interests in the region.
However, turning the wheels of war by prophesying apocalyptic events highlights a fundamental problem not only of ISIS and its followers, but also among those who still hold fast to the primitive mindset of myth and superstition.
Dr. Halla Diyab is an award winning screen-writer, producer, broadcaster, a published author and an activist. She has a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from the University of Leicester. She carried out research in New Orleans, USA while working on her thesis “The Examination of Marginality and Minorities in the Drama and Film of Tennessee Wil-liams”. She holds an MA in Gender and Women Studies from the University of Warwick. She has written a number of scripts for TV dramas countering religious extremism and international terrorism resulting in her being awarded Best Syrian Drama Script Award 2010 and the Artists Achievement Award 2011. She is a regular commentator in the Brit-ish and international media and has recently appeared on Channel 4 News, BBC Newsnight, BBC This Week, CNN, Sky News, Channel 5 News, ITV Central, Al Jazeera English, and BBC Radio 4, to name a few. She is a public speaker who spoke at the House of Commons, the Spectator Debate, Uniting for Peace and London’s Frontline Club. She has worked in Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Syria and is an expert on the Middle East and Islamic culture. As a highly successful drama writer, she has been dubbed ‘one of the most influential women in Syria’ in 2011. She also produces documentary films for UK and international channels. She is also the Founder & Director of Liberty Media Productions which focuses on cross-cultural issues between Britain and the Middle East. She can be found on Twitter: @drhalladiyab