The Archivist: Media Fitna in the Islamic State

NOTE: For prior parts in The Archivist series you can view an archive of it all here. And for his older series see: Musings of an Iraqi Brasenostril on Jihad.

Media Fitna in the Islamic State
By Aymenn al-Tamimi
The Islamic State has two main types of media departments that come under its media administration: central media institutions such as al-Furqan Media and al-Hayat Media, and the provincial media offices. The latter category includes areas of formally declared ‘provinces’ (e.g. Raqqa province in Syria and Diyala province in Iraq) and areas where the Islamic State operates on the ground but has not declared a ‘province’ (e.g. Somalia). In addition to these institutions, we have Amaq News Agency, which covers services provision and civilian life in Islamic State territories, military operations and even Islamic State terrorist attacks around the world, but has not been formally acknowledged to be a part of the Islamic State’s media apparatus. In origin, Amaq News Agency is the foremost example of what was envisioned as an ‘auxiliary’ media agency for the Islamic State.
The internal documents I have obtained concern problems in media production in Raqqa province and disagreements between media departments. For example, in the first document, the Delegated Committee (the higher governing body of the Islamic State) reprimands the wali (provincial governor) of Raqqa for supposed shortcomings in media coverage of events. The Delegated Committee also asks the wali to get on with the issuing of Mawkab al-Nur (‘Procession [/Convoy] of Light’).
Those who track Islamic State propaganda will recognize Mawkab al-Nur as the name of a nasheed released by Ajnad Media and the name of a series embodied in two videos from the Ninawa provincial media office, the first released in January of this year and the second in April. The first issue displays operations against Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul, including multiple suicide bombings from an aerial point of view and armed clashes. The second issue is similar in nature, and touches on themes like fathers following their sons in the path of carrying out ‘martyrdom’ operations (suicide bombings): for instance, one father who ends up becoming a suicide bomber in the Mosul operations narrates how two of his sons had previously carried out suicide bombings in Baghdad.
Despite the letter from the Delegated Committee on 22 April, the fourth document in this post illustrates that the matter of issuing Mawkab al-Nur for Raqqa province remained an unresolved problem as of 5 May, with the document noting the existence of an ongoing dispute as of that date between al-Furqan Media and Amaq News Agency in Raqqa province. In fact, to date, no video has come out from Raqqa province under the title of Mawkab al-Nur, though there have been other video series issued from Raqqa province in recent months like “The Fertile Nation” and “Dust of The War.”
Many of the problems discussed in these documents seem to be traced to the appointment of Abu al-Hassan al-Iraqi as head of the Raqqa province media office, but three media workers in the province- all Syrian in origin- are named for having produced suspect video clips that show sensitive military positions, with requests made to the relevant parties to subject the three men to verification procedures. Unfortunately, I have no further documentation to shed light on the ultimate fate of the three media workers.
Two other points of interest stand out in the documents. First, the fourth document in this post is the only internal one I know of so far that mentions Amaq News Agency by name. Second, the third and fourth documents mention a certain Rayan Mash’al (aka Bara’ Kadek). His name came to prominence at the end of May 2017 when his brother announced on Facebook that he had been killed in a coalition airstrike on al-Mayadeen in Deir az-Zor province. Originally from Aleppo, Rayan Mash’al was said to have been one of the founders of Amaq News Agency, having previously been involved with Aleppo News Network.

Old photo of Rayan Mash’al posted by his brother.

Rayan Mash’al in a clip posted by Aleppo News Network in September 2013.
Below are the documents translated, with any small explanatory clarifications in square brackets.

Islamic State
Delegated Committee

No. N 12/72
Date: 25 Rajab 1438 AH/22 April 2017 CE
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
The brother, the wali of Raqqa (may God protect him):
Please highlight the ongoing battles in the north of the wilaya and comply with the issuing of Mawkab al-Nur that your media was obliged to produce in its series in cooperation with the other media centres in the Islamic State.
We have seen a shortcoming in your offices’ undertaking and neglect in covering the ongoing events in the wilaya, including:
– The battles against the Kurdish apostates.
– The establishment of 7 Shari’i hudud punishments that the brothers in the realm of Hisba carried out.
– An inghimasi operation in Ayn Issa in which the soldiers of the Caliphate killed 40 apostates and took 5 prisoners.
– Initiatives of the Diwan al-Khidamat in Wilayat al-Raqqa for which the Diwan spent a sum of 30,000,000 Syrian pounds [c. $54500-60000].
And this is what has come to us concerning the shortcoming of your offices, and that you consider that there is no equivalence between them and the other offices in the wilayas of Iraq and al-Sham.
And know that we are before a great trust: whoso disdains it, the fruit of his jihad goes in vain. And who so slackens from supporting his brothers in assignments that have been entrusted to him, has betrayed God and His Messenger.
Please deal with the matter quickly and inform us with an outline.
Wa as-salam alaykum wa rahmat Allah

Islamic State
Delegated Committee


Islamic State
Diwan al-Amn al-Aam

Wilayat al-Raqqa
Date: 29 Rajab 1438 AH [26 April 2017 CE]
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
We in the security office in Wilayat al-Raqqa have briefed the Delegated Committee in a letter in which we clarified that Abu al-Hassan al-Iraqi did not comply with the plans that the office put in place for the course of work of the media office.
And during the display of clips recorded in the wilaya and its countryside areas, it became clear to us that the recorded videos show the first manufacturing factory in the old city and the recording is with you as no. 032.
Some of the clips also showed the boundaries of the old enclosure in Raqqa city on which the fighters of the Islamic State have built fortifications and coverings for snipers within the plan put in place to defend the city.
And during the display of clips to the military commander Abu Muhammad al-Khorasani, the security office with us was entrusted to destroy the clips or delay their issue until the military commander considers it permissible to publish them or use them as photographic material or as an archive for issues.
Therefore, we have confiscated the clip as a ‘trust’ with us, and have issued a summons for three of the correspondents in Wilayat al-Raqqa’s media office, and they are:
– Abu al-Khayr al-Raqqawi
– Abu Safa’ al-Ansari
– al-Hussein al-Shaheed
And we are waiting for the wali’s authorization to undertake a verification process with them and carry out the appropriate procedures in that case.
Abu al-Hikm al-Raqqawi
Security office/Eastern sector for Wilayat al-Raqqa

Islamic State
Diwan al-Amn al-Aam

Islamic State
Amni Aam official- Wilayat al-Raqqa

Islamic State
Markaz al-Amn al-Aam

Wilayat al-Raqqa
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
To the brother Abu Ali al-Afari [name suggests he is from Tel Afar] the official for tracking the media offices in the Islamic State:
We ask you for authorization to carry out a verification process with the media workers:
– Abu al-Khayr al-Raqqawi: born in Raqqa in 1399 AH [1978-9 CE], his father is Ali al-Bashir. He joined the Islamic State in 1435 AH after abandoning work with the Sahwat.
– Abu Safa’ al-Ansari: born in Aleppo in 1401 AH [1980-1 CE], his father is Aymenn al-Sayegh. He joined the Islamic State in 1435 AH after being with the Sahwat.
– al-Hussein al-Shaheed: born in Albukamal in 1405 AH [1984-5 CE], his father is Saleh al-Hussein. He joined the Islamic State in 1436 AH and had not worked with anyone before that.
These three filmed suspect video clips including clear scenes of the mujahideen at the points of their ribat [frontline points] and their fortification in Wilayat al-Raqqa, and they have displayed a great shortcoming in undertaking the obligations imposed on them by their amir Abu al-Hassan al-Iraqi.
Abu al-Khayr al-Raqqawi has contact with his family living with the apostates in Tel Abyad and they migrated from the land of the Caliphate 6 months ago after they crossed into the Ayn Issa area without Shari’i permission for departure.
As for Abu Safa’, he abandoned work with the brother Rayan Mash’al following ideological disagreements according to our particular knowledge.
We ask for authorization from you to track the case of these three media workers, and may God reward you best.
Wilayat al-Raqqa- al-Amn al-Aam
2 Sha’aban 1438 AH/28 April 2017 CE
Islamic State
Amni Aam official- Wilayat al-Raqqa
[In handwriting]: To be referred to the media committee in the Diwan al-Amn al-Aam with the necessity of taking into account the office’s current situation.

Islamic State
Wilayat al-Raqqa

Date: 9 Sha’aban 1438 AH [5 May 2017 CE]
No. 133/1
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
To the brother Rayan Mash’al may God protect him.
Please track the ongoing disagreement between al-Furqan Media and ‘Amaq in Wilayat al-Raqqa following which the issuing of Mawkab al-Nur particular to the wilaya came to a halt.
Please provide us with the names of the media workers who have been the main reason for the rift between the two sides that came about following the nomination of Abu al-Hassan al-Iraqi as official for the media office in Wilayat al-Raqqa.
And we will provide you with special authorization to track your work and the accompaniment of one of the security brothers to follow the investigation with you in a media capacity.
Please comply and implement.
Wilayat al-Raqqa office
Islamic State
Wilayat al-Raqqa
Wali’s office