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Ramadan in Syria

How Assad, ISIS, and Others are Using the Holy Month

A Syrian Muslim girl stands at the top of Mount Qassioun, which overlooks Damascus city, during sunset and prays before eating her iftar meal in the month of Ramadan, August 22, 2010. Khaled al-Hariri / Reuters

Ramadan is supposed to be a time of peace. In Syria, that is almost a cruel joke. There are some factions, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, that have used the holy month as an opportunity to win hearts and minds through services. Others, namely the Free Syrian Army and the Bashar al-Assad regime are less concerned about religious observance than blowing each other up. Finally, the Iraq- and Syria-based Islamic State (also called ISIS) has used the occasion to further its control over civilian populations and foment global jihad. In other words, Ramadan in Syria looks a lot like the other months in Syria—but worse. It is even longer, bloodier, and more desperate.

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During Ramadan, in addition to fasting, Muslims are instructed to refrain from sinful behavior, such as false speech (insults, curses, lies, and so on) and fighting. Before the war and the rise of ISIS, every

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