The Archivist: A Tribute to Jihadology – The Islamic State Police in Wilayat Halab

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.

A Tribute to Jihadology – The Islamic State Police in Wilayat Halab

By Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi

There are few specialists in the realm of jihadism studies who can claim to have not relied on Jihadology at some point in the course of their research. Over ten years, the website has grown to be the Internet’s most important repository for primary jihadist source material. At a time when social media sites are cracking down more vigorously than ever on dissemination of jihadist videos and writings, Jihadology proves the vital resource for those of us who simply lack the time to trawl through and save all of those materials on our computers.

I first came to notice Jihadology in late 2012, partly on account of my curiosity at the time about jihadist anashid. At the time I was an undergraduate student at Oxford University and had not yet become deeply involved in primary research on jihadism, but that rapidly changed as the Syrian civil war continued to develop and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) was announced in April 2013. Soon I began rigorously looking for all the primary materials I could find on ISIS’ evolution in Syria. I had the privilege of coming to write a column for Jihadology that primarily focused on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. After ISIS officially declared itself the Caliphate, my research angle shifted somewhat away from the group’s official propaganda and began examining internal administrative documents that emerged in the open source realm, which I started to compile in an archive on my own site. As I began to procure my own collections of Islamic State documents primarily coming out of Syria, I started a new column on Jihadology under the title of The Archivist in order to feature some of those documents with select analysis.

Throughout my years of research, I have always admired Aaron Zelin’s philosophy underpinning Jihadology: that is, making source materials available for other researchers to use. This philosophy partly drove my own approach in showcasing administrative documents with translation (my other inspiration lay in the handbooks of Latin and Greek epigraphic materials that were most useful to me in my undergraduate studies in Classics with Oriental Studies). I have also shared Aaron’s philosophy in other realms, such as making primary interviews I have conducted accessible in raw format on my site, as well as the original texts in my Arabic translations of excerpts from Old English and Gothic writings.

Though the era of completely open access to the primary source materials on Jihadology has now come to an end for security reasons, the site continue to remain accessible to those with genuine research purposes. If all Jihadologists were like Aaron in their approach to archiving primary materials and assisting fellow researchers in finding those materials, the field would be certainly be much healthier and happier!

So, in short, without wishing to prolong this panegyric, here is for many more decades of success for Jihadology! Or, as I might say in Latin to Aaron: Deus te benedicat! Et nunc et semper prospere geras!

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the site, I have decided to feature some exclusive documents with translation on the structure of the Islamic State’s ‘General Police’ as it existed in Wilayat Halab (‘Aleppo province’). It would appear that the ‘General Police’ was the reconstituted ‘Islamic Police’. Regrettably, some of the pages of the original publication appear to be missing from the surviving copy I have. Nonetheless, I showcase some of these documents to illustrate (though in a very partial sense) how the Islamic State organized its police apparatus in the later stages of its territorial control in a region of Syria. Note that in the translation, any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.

Islamic State
Wilayat Halab [Aleppo province]
General Police

[NB: this heading is on all the pages].

Means and framework of operation in the General Police

Work assigned in the General Police

Amir of the General Police: he is the official before God responsible for tracking and overseeing and supervising the divisions of the police in Wilayat Halab and conveying the orders from the wali.

Amir of the Special Police: he is the official before God responsible for tracking, overseeing and supervising the divisions of the military police in the wilaya and conveying the orders from the amir of the general police in the wilaya.

Amir of the Police in the Sector: he is the official before God responsible for tracking and overseeing all of the stations in the sector and conveying the orders from the amir of the sector and the amir of the police in the wilaya to all the stations in the sector.

Amir of the Police in the Station: he is the official before God responsible for arranging and organizing the station he is entrusted with by the amir of the police in the sector.

Amir of the Intelligence: he is the official responsible before God for gathering the information in terms of security and criminal matters and referring them to the amir of the general police.

Amir of the Security of the Routes: he is the official responsible before God for making clear the presence of the Islamic State and managing security in the areas that are behind the ribat [frontline manning] lines.

Note: in the event that there occurs a disagreement between the amir of the general police and the amir of the sector, the orders of the amir of the sector are to be implemented until referral of the matter to the wali [provincial governor].

Note: the checkpoints should be affiliated either with the sector or the amir of the police in the wilaya, and that will vary.

The checkpoints are divided into:

a) Firm checkpoints: their number is 8 brothers and they are the officials before God responsible for recording entry and exit from and to the sector or wilaya over the course of 24 hours and they are situated at the main entry to the wilaya and sector. They also track the wanted people and catch them if they try to pass through the checkpoint, prevent smuggling of people to outside the lands of the Dawla [Islamic State], and arrest the slackers from the soldiers of the Dawla and hand them over to the military police. Also the amir of the firm checkpoints is the amir and official responsible for the flying checkpoints.

b) Flying checkpoints: their number is 6 brothers from the inhabitants of the area, their work being in undefined places and times. They also arrest those who try to flee from the firm checkpoint and they are affiliated with the firm checkpoint. Their amir is one and their base is one.

Specimen of work of the patrols [for the police stations]:

Name of the brother who is the amir of the patrol:
Date: / /1438

Daytime patrol:
Nighttime patrol:
Inside the area:
Outside the area:

Type of issue:

People smuggling:
Traffic accident:
Internet without license:
Opening fire:
Besides that:

Patrol sent by:

Amir of the area:
Amir of the police:
Judge’s clerk:
Guest houses:
Amnis [security personnel]:


To all the stations, we ask you to comply with the specimen of the work of the patrols because they will be the basis in preparing the weekly report and monthly report and the report must be precise in this manner:

. Number of daytime and nighttime patrols
. Number of patrols outside or inside the area
. Number of types of cases.
. Number of patrols sent by whom
. Notes
. Requests and needs

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is an independent analyst and a doctoral candidate at Swansea University, where he focuses on the role of historical narratives in Islamic State propaganda. His public media work focuses primarily on the Islamic State, Iraq, and Syria, and he has been cited in numerous outlets for his insights, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Agence France-Presse, and the Associated Press. His website is

Site Registration

If anyone is still having issues registering on Jihadology since the site has changed, please email me at azelin[@]jihadology[.]net so I can help resolve it. If it says “we do not accept registrations from that domain” it is because the domain has yet to be whitelisted. This does not necessarily mean you cannot access the website, we just do not know every singe domain email and have yet to whitelist that particular one yet. So please reach out.

Additionally, if you are registered and have found a problem with any post, please email me at the above address so that it can be fixed. Thanks for your patience and help.

Aaron Y. Zelin

Founder of Jihadology

Tech Against Terrorism Press Release: April 10, 2019 – Launching An Updated Version of Jihadology

Over the past 12 months, Tech Against Terrorism has worked with the academic website to update it so that particularly sensitive content is only accessible by users with registered academic/research, governmental, journalistic, or humanitarian  email addresses. The purpose of this work is to ensure that individuals can still access important primary research material whilst ensuring that jihadis and individuals vulnerable to recruitment are prevented from viewing and downloading the most sensitive content. The update to the website was sponsored by the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a tech coalition founded by Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook, and YouTube to responsibly address the spread of terrorist content online.

Background to Jihadology

Jihadology is highly regarded as the internet’s most comprehensive “clearinghouse for jihadiī primary source material and original analysis” and as such Jihadology is considered to be an essential resource for academia and terrorism researchers. Jihadology contains more than 13,000 articles. In total, this amounts to around 750 GB of video.

Background to Tech Against Terrorism

Tech Against Terrorism is an initiative launched by the United Nations Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (UN CTED) in April 2017 and implemented by the UK-based NGO QuantSpark Foundation. We support the global technology sector in responding to terrorist use of the internet whilst respecting human rights, and we work to promote public-private partnerships to mitigate this threat. Specifically, we work across three pillars: outreach, knowledge-sharing, and technical and operational support. As a public-private partnership, the initiative is supported by the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism and the governments of Spain, Switzerland, and the Republic of Korea.

We work with a broad range of internet platforms that are susceptible to being used by terrorists. We focus on analysing what terrorists want through their use of the internet, with our analysis clearly indicating that an entire tech eco-system is being exploited by terrorists and violent extremists, often in combination. Therefore our work is tech-agnostic and works with companies across all types of technologies, with an explicit focus on supporting smaller tech companies with fewer resources to adequately address the urgent threat of terrorist exploitation. This partnership between Tech Against Terrorism and Jihadology shows the value of providing technical support to smaller internet platforms like Jihadology who do not necessarily have the technical resources to make these changes on their own.

Why are we doing this?

Jihadology is widely regarded as an essential resource for those conducting research on jihadi groups, thanks to its collation of extensive amounts of primary source material produced by such groups. However, there have been concerns that the site is used by jihadis who exploit the fact that material on the site is publicly available. As such, Jihadology wanted to find a way to password protect the most sensitive material. In order to make the site more secure whilst ensuring that the site can remain open and continue to increase understanding of jihadism, we have updated the site with the aim of denying jihadis and those vulnerable to recruitment easy access to the most sensitive content hosted on the site

What are the changes to the updated version?

The updated version of Jihadology restricts access of the primary sources for those that do not have a formal affiliation with an academic/research, governmental, journalistic, or humanitarian institution. Third-party researchers can request special permission to access the password-protected part of the site on a case-by-case basis. The analysis part of the website remains open to anyone.

How do users register?

To ensure that this registration system is used by legitimate researchers, the registration system will accept registrations from recognised email domains only (.edu, .gov,, etc). Since researchers with legitimate interest in using Jihadology who do not have such email addresses should still have access to the site, an override function will allow for Jihadology to accept registrations from other email addresses at their discretion. Tech Against Terrorism has also developed warning interstitials to be displayed when accessing harmful content, and restricted visibility of original source URLs and imagery for non-registered users. Jihadology will remain the sole administrator over the website and will not be sharing any data regarding registration with Tech Against Terrorism, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, or any governments.

What does this achieve?

This update allows for Jihadology to continue to serve its purpose as the world’s largest clearinghouse for jihadi primary source material and original analysis whilst increasing the site’s capacity to safeguard against exploitation by jihadis. In our view, protecting certain sensitive content whilst making it accessible for research purposes is the best way to do this, and demonstrates that options for responding to terrorist online content do not only consist of removal or complete access.

A New Era Begins: Changes To Jihadology

For those that know me or have spoken to me about the origins of this website, the original purpose was to assist graduate students in accessing jihadi primary source material. I started the site in May 2010, but the idea had been germinating with me through the process of writing my M.A. thesis beginning in the fall of 2009. At the time, jihadis released their content on password-protected forums and many did not know how to access them, as well as many individuals were worried about viruses or malware. There were also not many university courses on jihadism at the time and there were no professors (or very few) teaching how to access this content for research. Therefore, through the process of writing my M.A. thesis I had issues getting primary sources and figured, if I was having troubles, I’m sure other graduate students were as well. This was why I created this site. Through the process of doing my M.A. thesis I had a better grasp of attaining this content for research and continued to improve my understanding over the first six months or so of this website being created.

Times have changed, however. Now, there are many courses on jihadism and many professors have risen up the ranks and also now teach students how to access this content. Therefore, the added-value of the site remaining open to anyone has passed its expiration date. That being said, the website is not dying. Rather, to gain access to the primary sources you will need to register. I will still remain the sole administrator of the website. The website is open to those with academic/research, governmental, journalistic, or humanitarian email addresses. Third-party researchers can request special permission to access the password-protected part of the site on a case-by-case basis. The original analysis, guest posts, and side features like my ‘Articles of the Week,’ ‘Eyes on Jihadis in Libya,’ or whatever comes up in the future will remain open to anyone.

I am sure some will be disappointed by this, but it has not been an easy decision. It is something I have mulled over for some time. I would like to thank the folks at GIFCT and Tech Against Terrorism for assisting in this process over the past year. I look forward to Jihadology continuing to be a vital resource for many interested in doing research and better understanding this phenomenon.

For those that register, if you find any issues with any of the primary sources on the site due to potential errors during the transferring of the site to a new server, please email me so it can be fixed it.

Aaron Y. Zelin

Founder of Jihadology

Eye on ISIS in Libya

Jihadology is proud to launch a collaboration with a new web service, — founded by Jason Pack. Eye On ISIS in Libya (EOIL) is both a repository of English language information about the origins, expansion, actions, and governance of the Islamic State in Libya and also a free subscription web service that provides weekly updates on IS’s actions and the responses of Libyan and international actors. EOIL’s comprehensive, easily searchable, information-driven, and unbiased content replete with maps, videos, and interactive content should help individuals interested come to grips with the unique nature of IS in Libya compared with its home base in Iraq/Syria.
Each week, Jihadology will repost the EOIL “ISIS in Action” post covering the Islamic State’s actions over the previous week. These posts also link back to the EOIL site where users can read that week’s other three updates: “Western Response,”  “Other Jihadi Actors,” and “The Anti-ISIS Coalition.” Conversely, Jihadology will post IS’s videos and propaganda pertaining to Libya on EOIL’s  ISIS Materials page, with links back to Jihadology where users can find more information about IS’s full range of propaganda.
Look out for the first “ISIS in Action” post on Jihadology in the coming days.

Jihadology Podcast: IS and Attacks in the West with Thomas Hegghammer

Thomas Hegghammer talks to Aaron about his new paper, “Assessing the Islamic State’s Commitment to Attacking the West,” in Perspectives on Terrorism, co-authored with Petter Nesser. This episode also features our #SocialMedia segment, covering posts from August 3rd to August 9th.

The podcast is produced by Karl Morand. If you have feedback you can email [email protected], or find us on Twitter: @JihadPod.
You can subscribe to the show in iTunes or with our RSS feed.

Download this episode (37MB mp3).

AQ – IS Power Rankings – April 2015

*UPDATE: Based on feedback on Twitter and some more thinking on my part, here is an updated version of the original chart kept below so people can compare. Unless there is some large-scale breaking news, I’ll likely now update this every month or two.

Original Post (4/19/15 8:00pm eastern):
My attempt to visualize where things are currently. Will periodically update, but I mainly posted this so as to get feedback since it is a fluid situation and some might have more local insight on particular groups/areas than me.

*Call for Jihadology Research Intern*

Since last fall, I have been toying with the idea of starting a podcast for Jihadology and have had some discussions with a few people about potential ideas, themes, and plans. I have finally decided to pull the trigger and move this idea forward, but to do it I need help since I am already busy with a number of responsibilities. With that, I would need a research intern that is a native or fluent English reader and speaker as well as can read and listen to Arabic as a native, fluently, or professionally proficient. Preferably the candidate would be an undergraduate student, graduate student, or recently graduated. This would be an excellent opportunity for someone to get to know the Sunni jihadi primary source material as well as the secondary literature within the field generally speaking, among other things.
If you are interested or want more information, please email [email protected] Thank you.
I look forward to hopefully starting this podcast within the next month.

Navigating the new design

About a month ago, I switched the design of the website to make it look cleaner. Unfortunately, this is the first time I’ve had time to write about it to explain a few things. With it I had to consolidate the side bars. For those that haven’t noticed on the left side of the website toward the top there are two tabs. The second tab if you click on it will get you to other types of information that you are used to such as the search function, joining the website by email, monthly archives, categories for each post, an RSS, as well as more mundane stuff like a notice about how the website is a personal project, my email for translation service, and the copyright notice. I’m sure many have discovered this tab, but thought just in case it was confusing I’d let everyone know. Also, both tabs you can scroll down to see all of the content. I’ll keep this post as a sticky at the top of my website for about a week. Other than that, apologies about not updating the site much over the past four months, I have been traveling for work and just haven’t had the time. I hope to still backdate everything, but that could take months since it would be during my free time. Either way, the site should be back to it’s regularly scheduled posts now.

Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.

Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade
By Phillip Smyth
Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade
All of the various fronts must unite. The organization must form an alliance; it must be a religious party…Everyone must unite in the Party of God, “Hizballah”. Everyone must speak out together. Everyone must rise up together.” – Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, May 13, 1978, speaking in Najaf, Iraq, in response to crackdowns by the Shah of Iran.1

It was a warm evening in early May 2013 when I met-up with a group of friends which included Aaron Zelin, the creator of We discussed the possibility of a guest post or me being able to assist with a section dealing with Shi’a jihadism. Since April of that year, I had been posting information on Lebanese Hizballah and other Iraqi Shi’a Islamist groups sending fighters to Syria on Twitter with the hashtag #HizballahCavalcade. We both felt this could be expanded and Aaron gave me the opportunity to put together some posts for the page. Who would have figured it would have grown and changed so much over the past 12 months?
Initially, I thought Hizballah Cavalcade would simply be an “attempt to display available photos of all funerals and martyrdom posters belonging to Shia groups which are fighting in Syria. In addition, funeral, combat, and even music videos belonging to these groups pertaining to the fighting in Syria will also be posted.” At the time, funerals and the imagery associated with them were the main way to gauge involvement. It was also unknown how deep the involvement of Shia Islamist fighters would be in Syria.
As I started to do more research, put together methodologies (which have grown and changed over the year), and truly devoted a higher-level of focus on more networks—particularly those on social media, it became clear that there would be plenty to post about for the page. As the information grew and the situation continued to transform, it became clear that putting “martyrdom announcements” or the funeral videos were simply not enough. Instead, harder analysis, focused on deeper studying of the material(s) and explanation was required with less “data-dump” style posts. As a result, Hizballah Cavalcade grew into a venue where I could put together posts on new organizations, links between the groups, their commanders, weapons systems, camouflage, where they were fighting, the fighters, uploaded combat videos, even the symbolism and language used by these groups.
Syria was also supposed to be the main focus for HC. In most respects it still is, but due to the interconnectedness of many of the forces, it became necessary to expand the scope. Consequently, I started to also focus on where many of the Shia Islamist forces fighting in Syria had originated: Iraq. Narrative development also became increasingly important as it became necessary to explain key elements regarding why a Shia jihad was occurring in Syria.
Recently, in March 2014, I started working on a subseries on Hizballah Cavalcade called “The Pearl and the Molotov” which sought to explain the growing numbers of militant Shia jihadi groups in Bahrain. I had expected to put up around five posts and focus back on Syria. However, the growth, narratives, and importance of the development has yet to stop. The hope for the rest of 2014 (and hopefully 2015) is to continue to offer some other subseries on geographic areas where there is also Shia jihadi activity.
Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade2
Figure 1: I’m still searching for a correlation between Chichen Itza and fallen Shia Islamist fighters.
Hizballah Cavalcade also helped established something else which was far more expansive than simply being a niche series covering Shia Islamist organizations and their battles. The importance of open-source social media and internet-based platforms with this unique primary source information truly came to light. As the broader and at times (unfortunately) intellectually-rigid analytical community learns to deal with this 21st century reality, it is plain to see that the old narrative of, “Well, that’s just social media material” increasingly has little merit.2 As exemplified with a number of new Shia Islamist militias in Syria, their existence was announced to the world via a Facebook page. This neither means that social media sources are the best nor that they should not be used in conjunction with other sources, but their utility and the breadth of information they offer is a true game-changer.
Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade3
Figure 2: Hizballah: the car seat.3
Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade4
Figure 3: A young Hassan Nasrallah washing-up.
Praise & Coverage for Hizballah Cavalcade
Over the past year Hizballah Cavalcade has also gotten some fantastic coverage in the media. Needless to say, it always serves as an ego boost and affirms that the pieces are useful for those following complex situations involving Shia jihadist elements.
Noted Iraq expert Michael Knights, who also wrote a Washington Institute For Near East Policy piece on Shia Islamist fighters in Syria, used HC as a main reference and was kind enough to say HC had, “the best coverage of these issues.”
During the Battle of Qusayr, posted figures on HC of Lebanese Hizballah dead were cited by distinguished journalist Anne Barnard of the New York Times. Since then, Hizballah Cavalcade has been featured, quoted, and cited in pieces by a myriad of top journalists, blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other publications including (but not limited to): The Wall Street Journal, AFP, McClatchy, National Public Radio, Australian Broadcasting, NOW Lebanon, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Foreign Policy, The Huffington Post, The New York Review of Books, USA Today, The Financial Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. Fitting with the maxim that, “80% of what is written has been written before” a number of other publications have recycled (without credit) HC posts into their own pieces.
Additionally, the posts on Hizballah Cavalcade gave me the opportunity to write longer pieces for Foreign Policy and West Point’s CTC Sentinel. There was also the privilege of being able to take part in an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. In November 2013 I had the great honor to testify in front of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding Shia Islamist groups fighting in Syria. When jihadism expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he also gave praise to HC.
Based primarily on a Hizballah Cavalcade piece on the musical narrative of Shia militias in Syria, Aaron Zelin (who addressed Sunni jihadist anasheed) and I were featured in a Washington Post piece. Shia jihadi music has been a long standing and rather esoteric obsession of mine. The ability to post my analysis of this material and see the positive reactions to it is always wonderful.
Quotes and references aside, the private conversations I have with many well-informed and experienced followers of the region always present me and the blog with new insights. I am always happy to share what I have learned with them and others.
I try to write pieces I would like to read and my greatest hope is that others find it informative, novel, and able to address specific trends. Not to sound cliché, but those who read my posts are both an inspiration for me and often serve as the push I need to continue writing. There are times when I suffer from a good bout of frustration from certain geopolitical conditions and the analysis which comes out of it. It’s very easy to jump down the ultra-cynical rabbit hole and either stop writing or produce subpar work. Nevertheless, Hizballah Cavalcade’s readers have time and time again challenged me, taught me new things, and most importantly demonstrated that they too wanted to read the material. To my many colleagues and friends, thank you for your kind words, suggestions, assistance, and the encouragement you all have given me.
I promise to continue to write more posts and I truly hope everyone has benefited from reading them.
Thank you all for reading Hizballah Cavalcade! Time to cut the cake.
Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade5
Figure 4: A Kata’ib Hizballah celebration for the martyrdom of one of its members in Syria. (Special thanks to an anonymous reader who sent the photo).

1 See: 2 See: J.M. Berger’s comments. Berger is a leading expert and luminary in the field of studying terrorist groups’ utilization of social media: 3 See: