The Islamic State Counters Media Narrative that the Group is Broke

Apr 2, 2016

Arab and International media have recently been highlighting the Islamic State's financial troubles, emphasizing that the group has lost many of its financial assets, such as oil fields hit by coalition airstrikes, and that its tax revenues have shrunk following ongoing territorial losses. Different media outlets also quoted reports from December 2015 saying that IS was forced to cut fighters' salaries in half. This narrative can be particularly damaging for the group, hampering recruitment efforts and hurting morale among its fighters and residents.

To counter this media narrative, the various Islamic State media branches have launched what seems to be a coordinated campaign aimed at presenting a different reality. The group's Kirkuk Province published a "photo essay" on March 17 displaying images from a tour of the market in Huweija, Iraqi. The images show a market packed with different types of food and merchandise, from vegetables and meat to jewelry. A very similar image arises from photos the group released from the markets in Mosul on March 30, and from Mosul's al-Mithaq neighborhood on March 6. The group also published photos from Mosul's professional market on March 27, showing different tools and furniture being manufactured at full capacity.

In addition to these photo essays, the Islamic State's Aamaq news agency published a video on March 31, in which residents of Mosul are interviewed about daily life in the city. The video was taken in a bustling market and the interviewed residents projected optimism: "We live in peace and security, the markets are full, and the situation is very good. People go to work and live well," one Mosul merchant was recorded saying. This video comes as Iraqi forces launched what they describe as a campaign to re-take Mosul from IS, with thousands having reportedly fled the area.

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"Markets are full," IS media reputes economic hardships