“Eye for an eye” retaliation only benefits the Islamic State

For thousands of years, largely fuelled by religious and ethnic hatred, the Middle East has been a fertile plain for bloodshed based on retaliation and vengeance. Indeed revenge is quickly on the lips of many when any crime is perpetrated.

The principle of an “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” or “lex talionis” (law of retaliation) has roots across Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

As the Islamic State (IS) perpetrates heinous crimes against humanity in both Iraq and Syria, passion runs high with understandable anger and distaste at some of the worst crimes possible.

Indeed, the word on everyone’s lip in Jordan in recent days was that of vengeance. Jordan went from a state of reservation to their involvement in the coalition effort to a deep drive to punish and retaliate against the IS for the brutal execution of captured Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh.

In the days of mass technology and an exponentially smaller word, IS has used social media effectively as a weapon to strike shock and fear into the hearts of many. After IS released the video of Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage, the video quickly circulated around the world. Its effect were so dramatic on Jordanians that it would have left like a whole section of Amman went on fire than just the murder of a pilot.

King Abdullah II vowed a “severe” and within hours convicted terrorists Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouli, already on death row, were executed in response.

Since then, the Jordanian air force has launched a fierce air campaign against IS. But whether the execution of the terrorists in retaliation serves much of a gain against IS is doubtful.

The IS level of brutality should not be matched as this is exactly what they desire – a plethora of violence, vengeance and retaliation that pitches the Middle East back into the dark ages.

IS applies the Islamic law of Qasas in its broadest terms. In their extreme interpretation of most codes of religious practice, all their crimes against Yezidism, Christians, Kurds and Shiites or captured hostages are not only acceptable but have a legal justification.

The Kurds have suffered as much as any in recent months. With every grieving mother, lays the framework for an emboldened desire to defeat the organization but images such that of IS bodies been dragged through the streets of Kirkuk sends off the completely wrong sense of retaliation.

The doctrine of hatred and brutality is what IS hope to perpetrate. Tit for tit cases only plays into their hands any blurs the lines of the good and bad guys. Of course, the case of Kirkuk was limited to a few and Kurdish forces have been dignified and honorable in their battle but just like an act of IS gets magnified through social media, this is not difference to responses against IS.

The irony in committing such atrocities against IS, is that IS will not be shocked by such a level of response. It’s an expectation not exception to see such responses.

This week Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani vowed that Peshmerga were ready to “go into the final war” against IS with the right of military aid. Crucially, he vowed Kurdistan would seek “justice but not revenge.”

The opposite mentality has crippled Iraq since 2003 as sectarian hit squads have succeeded in their aim of creating a climate of fear and anarchy by promoting mass revenge attacks. One attack is met by a bigger attack in response and so on until the whirlwind of violence and hatred reaches a point of no return.

Ironically, the majority of the time it is innocent civilians that get caught up under the veil of “equal retribution.”

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc.

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