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IS Claims It Has Issued ID Cards For Those Living Under Its Control

A picture of an ID card shared on social media that has been purportedly issued to Islamic State 'citizens.'

A picture of an ID card shared on social media that has been purportedly issued to Islamic State 'citizens.'

American musician Frank Zappa once said that "you can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline."

"It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer," Zappa added.

The Islamic State (IS) group cannot produce a beer (alcohol is forbidden in Islam) and is far from having its own commercial airline, or -- thankfully -- nuclear weapons.

It seems unlikely that IS will try to create a soccer team, given that the extremist Sunni group has reportedly executed teenagers for watching a football match.

Yet despite these setbacks in achieving the trappings of statehood, IS militants made another effort to show that they are a real country this week by claiming to have issued ID cards to people living under their rule.

Photographs shared on social media this week by supporters of IS claim to show the ID cards.

The GreatISNation pro-IS Twitter account, which has since been suspended, tweeted a photograph of one of the cards on April 11 and said that IS intended to "start issuing identity cards to its nationals, three-dimensional electronic chip to prevent fraud."

The cards shown in the photographs appear to contain an RFID chip and a hologram to prevent counterfeiting. The ID cards also show information such as the blood group of their bearer.

A Twitter user with the handle Muslimah4Life, who claims to be an English-speaking woman living in lands controlled by IS, tweeted on April 10 that her brother had just been given one of the cards.

"Dawlah [an Arabic term for IS] #IS ID card looks amazing, my brother in law just got one and me and my husband can't wait to get one soon insha Allah... [God willing]," Muslimah4Life tweeted.

While Muslimah4Life's tweets claimed that IS was issuing the cards to people living in areas under the militants' control, other reports said that IS was issuing the cards to its fighters.

The UK's Daily Express newspaper quoted an anonymous civil rights activist in the IS-controlled Iraqi city of Mosul who said that the cards were part of a campaign to "reassure" militants that IS's leadership remained strong and in control.

The move came in the wake of recent losses by IS, the activist said.

"They want to convince their militants that they’re capable of overcoming the current challenges. This step is to raise the insurgents’ morale, especially following the losses in several areas and amid intensified U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes against cities and towns held by the group in both Syria and Iraq," the activist was quoted as saying.

IS has taken significant losses recently, in particular in the Iraqi city of Tikrit where Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias have routed the militants.

The reports of IS issuing the ID cards cannot be independently verified. If the cards have indeed been issued, it is not clear on what scale.

However, the move to issue ID cards is in line with IS's attempts to demonstrate that it is not a militant group but a functioning state, with the ability to govern the areas under its control.

That IS wants to be seen as a state is apparent from an article written by British hostage John Cantlie in the most recent edition of IS's English-language propaganda magazine, Dabiq.

In his article, titled Paradigm Shift, Cantlie discusses the attributes of statehood that IS say justify defining the lands under their control as a country, including an army, a police force and drones.

IS has previously said that it would issue its own currency, using solid gold and silver coins, an idea that was quickly derided by Western experts and which does not seem to have materialized.

IS has also issued ID cards before, though not with RFID chips or holograms. Twitter user @offshorerace tweeted four images that militants have claimed are IS ID cards:

-- Bruce Pannier

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena


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