Posted on 7/23/18

On June 29, 2014, the terrorist group known as ISIS declared a Caliphate in a large swath of land in Syria and Iraq. Using Raqqa, Syria as its capital, ISIS saw itself as the true representative of the Muslim religion. It created an infrastructure that was organized, efficient, and able to fund itself. It went to the border area between Syria and Iraq and removed all border crossings and border signs because, in ISIS’s view, this was part of their Caliphate.

Even before June 29, 2014, ISIS had significant operations all over the globe. It was actively recruiting new members. It used internet chats, Facebook, and other means of communication to convey its message and bring in those committed to its mission. It had a growing army that provided training to new recruits.

Many of those recruits were Americans. By law, any Americans joining ISIS are at risk of prosecution. A New Jersey man received 10 years for materially helping a terrorist group; a Maryland man received a 35-year sentence for going to Syria and fighting with ISIS. Six men in Minnesota were arrested recently and face jail time, even though those men never actually traveled to Syria on behalf of ISIS. The punishment is stiff. Therefore, if you are accused of joining ISIS or a terrorist group, you will need strong representation.

ISIS Origins

Originally known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS was formed in 2007 in an Iraqi prison. It is has since grown very large. In contrast to other terror groups, ISIS does not believe that a time in the future is the date to create a caliphate; rather, it seeks to create a caliphate right now.

The Caliphate

When ISIS officially announced that it created a caliphate based on what it believed was the Koran’s version of a caliphate in large swaths of Iraq and Syria, it removed all previous markings of borders in the territory it controlled; it took over many of the day-to-day activities involved in running a society, including garbage collection and running the electric grid. It also had a large tax collecting agency that provided the group with a large revenue stream.


As mentioned, ISIS saw itself as a caliphate based on the Koran. To that end, it created a religious police force called the Hisba that was tasked with enforcing the law per its understanding of the Koran. For instance, people who violated modesty laws were publicly punished by the Hisba. A Hisba member can take a person and give him lashes publicly without trial if the Hisba member believes that a person is guilty.

Americans in ISIS Territory

Per the PATRIOT Act of 2001, any American who assists ISIS in any of these terror activities can be punished by the law. This means any American who committed these acts in ISIS territory will be liable to American authorities. Trying to provide assistance, even if the assistance does not materialize, can be conspiracy to assist a terror organization that carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Accused of aiding a terrorist organization? You have rights. Contact the criminal defense firm of Christopher Abel.                       

(image courtesy of Glenn Carstens Peters)

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