Since it burst on the scene as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the organization now known as the Islamic State, or ISIS, has cut a wide and bloody swath through the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq. Many of its most notorious, high-profile actions involve ethnic and religious groups that ISIS has declared fair game: numerous massacres of every type against Iraq’s Shi’a population, culminating in the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre; targeting Iraq’s Yazidi population for extinction, including the August 2007 Qahtaniya bombings; and multiple attacks against Christians, including the October 2010 attack on the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad and the total expulsion of historic Christian communities in Mosul and Nineveh Plains in 2014.
But the violence perpetrated by ISIS against the Sunni Arab Muslim population, ostensibly its most important core constituency, is sometimes less well understood or known, even though evidence exists in abundance. The recent mass killings of Anbar tribesmen in 2014-2015 and the mass slaughter committed in 2014 against the Shaitat tribe in Eastern Deir Al-Zur, Syria are particularly noteworthy because of their sheer scope. The massacre of almost a thousand members of the Shaitat by ISIS is particularly interesting because of the video and social media material existing on it and because of strenuous media efforts by ISIS, continuing well after the act, to justify its actions.