The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is in a state of constant war, fighting just about everybody in the region. While under siege from an American led bombing coalition ISIS has suffered major battlefield defeats such as the fall of Tikrit in central Iraq, but yet continues to improvise and gain ground in other parts of the country. Islamic fighters in Yemen, Libya, and Nigeria have pledged support to the group, giving ISIS a truly global reach.
But with the information age’s immense media coverage of the conflict, it can be hard to sift through the details and figure out exactly what’s happening on a day to day basis. Both ISIS fighters and their opponents flood the internet with graphic videos and photos of their battlefield exploits, which are then replayed and discussed by both local and international news agencies. Many of these news sources have significant biases, clearly supporting one side or the other in the conflict.
There are literally hundreds of armed groups fighting in Syria which are constantly shifting and realigning, each group with different ideologies and goals. It can be difficult to figure out exactly what’s going on, but over time I’ve built up a pretty reliable news network of websites that can shed light on developments in the conflict.
Here are some of the best websites I use to stay on top of the Syrian Civil War and the growth of ISIS worldwide:
r/SyrianCivilWar is hands down the best source for immediate, on the ground reports from locals about ISIS. It’s a subreddit of Reddit, a website based off of community approval. Users submit links to the community which are then ‘upvoted’ by other users (if they are good) or ‘downvoted’ (if they are bad). The prominently upvoted links filter to the top, allowing readers to quickly see the most important updates in the last few days or hours. While r/SyrianCivilWar is an English language website, many of the links and videos are in Arabic, sometimes making it difficult for western audiences to navigate.
Often, links on r/SyrianCivilWar will be directly from the Twitter accounts of ISIS fighters and their opponents across Syria and Iraq, giving an unfiltered view of exactly what’s going on. The subreddit has a lot of gruesome, first person videos featuring gunfights from Syrian rebels, ISIS media releases, artillery shelling, and the treatment of POWs, giving readers an up close look at the conflict. In addition to the direct coverage, r/SyrianCivilWar also often has discussion of the changing situation and regularly updated battle maps that depict ISIS’s territorial gains and losses.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a formal news source, but rather a community approved stream of important information about the war, meaning that many of the reports are unreliable. Many posters on the website have obvious biases, openly supporting either the Syrian regime, ISIS, the Kurds, or other Syrian rebels. Often, links on the subreddit are blatant, misleading propaganda.
However, because of the multitude of on the ground sources and the reliability of the voting community to weed out the misinformation, r/SyrianCivilWar tops the list for the best website for updated ISIS news.
VICE News was founded just two years ago in December 2013 and since then it has rapidly grown to become one of the preeminent names in online news. By updating their website and YouTube channel multiple times daily, they are one of the best sources for staying on top of immediate news around the world. They broadcast in-depth documentaries with reporters on the ground about world events that are often poorly covered by other news sources, recently releasing an entertaining and informational documentary on ISIS, giving western readers a perspective that’s usually unavailable.
VICE News relies heavily on independent contributors which gives the organization a lot of freedom, resulting in plentiful ground coverage. Since the start of the Ukrainian conflict VICE news reporter Simon Ostrovsky has done an excellent video series called ‘Russian Roulette’ while within hours of Nepal’s recent earthquake, VICE news had Neha Shastry on the ground reporting for their “Earthquake in Nepal” video series. While VICE news’ flexible organization structure allows them to report rapidly on worldwide news, it’s drawn criticism from more established news agencies that decry VICE’s style as unprofessional.
Their “Islamic State” section is frequently updated and provides readers with a really good take on the major events in the region. Its video based reporting style makes for really engaging, first hand news, and I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in keeping up with ISIS.
3. Rudaw English: Middle East
The Rudaw Media Network is a Kurdish media group out of Erbil on the front lines of the battle against ISIS in the Kurdish Autonomous Region in northern Iraq. As much of the fighting against ISIS is being done by Kurdish militias, Rudaw’s geographical proximity and relationship to the conflict give it a decisive edge in reporting. While Rudaw has been criticized as a Kurdish propaganda machine, it undeniably provides a unique and valuable perspective on the conflict.
Due to the Kurdish-American alliance that has seen American jets provide close air support for Kurdish troops in their fight against ISIS, understanding the Kurdish perspective is crucial for grasping the conflict as a whole. Rudaw’s ‘Middle East’ section on their website is regularly updated with the top stories from the region, particularly focusing on ISIS and the American/coalition bombing campaign. While Rudaw is a great source, it’s important to take everything from them with a grain of salt – they’re definitely biased and I’ve seen some flagrant propaganda pieces by them before.
While these three news sources are my personal favorites for following ISIS news, they are dozens of other great websites out there which can keep you updated. If you have any favorites for staying abreast of developments in the worldwide campaign against ISIS, comment below and link them because I’ve love to check them out. As always, follow @theglobalstate on twitter to receive updates and analysis of worldwide events, particularly the Syrian Civil War.