The Demise of Daesh

With today being Veteran’s Day, I took inspiration from a Vice News video I saw on Facebook about two hipster Brooklynites who took a year off of work and volunteered to fight Daesh (ISIS) with the Kurdish Army. I thought it was such a cool thing to do, and so my own contribution is a mapping project that illustrates where Daesh held land, where it has control as of most recently, and where it had been eliminated by the US. I realize I am very late with this praxis, however, I had a medical issue when it was due and my other two were on time so this is just for my own benefit.

I used Carto to make my map. I had a hard time figuring out how to make the layers work for me and eventually, it told me I had exceeded my allotted amount and needed to upgrade my account if I wanted more. The reason I had so many layers was that of the purple and orange polygons (which I will explain in a minute the logic of it all) … I was having a hard time adding more than one polygon to one layer, but I eventually got it to work.

Other than that Carto is very intuitive. There is definitely a learning curve that I haven’t quite gotten over entirely, but it was rewarding to play with this tool. The source of my data was a BBC article on the annihilation of Daesh over time ( I basically just combined two of the different maps they had… one showing Daesh control and another map visualizing where the US destroyed Daesh. I did this very crudely and not all of the towns that were on the BBC map would come up in Carto, even when I searched for al-Qaim it took me to Yemen, which is not the right answer. So I had to guess as best I could. I looked for Daesh related datasets but came up empty-handed. ISIS has a lot of connotations other than the terror organization, so that search too was useless.

So here is the map…


I couldn’t figure out how to embed the image so I just screenshot the entire workstation so anyone not familiar with Carto could see how it is setup. As for a legend of the map, the red dots show US lead coalition strikes against Daesh, there were 13,315 in Iraq and 14,660 in Syria. The purple polygons and one line signify Daesh control of the territory as of Jan 5, 2015 and the orange polygons show their significant loss of control as of Jan 8, 2018.

This was a great way to spend my morning. Seeing the demise of Daesh visualized is very rewarding… and if anyone happens to know those two Brooklynites I referenced earlier please introduce me! The one even talked about reading Hamlet and all of Shakespeare during his deployment. He is a theater designer in real life, just to illustrate his unique personality a bit!

7 thoughts on “The Demise of Daesh

  1. Sabina Pringle (she/ella)

    Hi Patrick, your project makes me want to make time to learn to use Carto too. If I do and get stuck I may ask you for help.

    It’s refreshing to read you call Daesh Daesh. I’m intrigued by the two Brooklynites who went off to fight with the Kurds.

    Do you really think we’re seeing the demise of Daesh? The writer of this August 14 article in the London Sunday Times suggests the organization is still strong:

  2. Dax Oliver

    Good stuff, Patrick! New York Magazine also profiled a San Francisco hipster with a popular Twitter feed who went to fight with the Kurds. He said it was hard to keep being ironic after the intensity of that experience:

    Sabina, I think it depends on how you define “demise.” As an organization that holds governmental control over territory, this might be close to the end for Daesh, but its message will probably live on in various cells of angry people with a taste for conspiracy theories. The Nazis haven’t controlled territory since 1945, but their message unfortunately still resonates with some people in 2018.

  3. Patrick Grady O'Malley Post author

    Thanks guys! Yea, Sabina I’m no expert with Carto obviously lol I’m sure there is much more that could have come of this map but I maxed out my own expertise with what I did. However, would be happy to help get you started with it

    As for the end of Daesh, Dax is right in what he said. And it all comes down to the almighty dollar and whatever psychos are funding them. But. I will definitely add the article you recommended to my must reads this week.

  4. Farah Zahra

    Thank you for doing this work Patrick. I’d just like to point out to one thing if I may. And I don’t mean to politicize this in any way; I want to rather try to bring it back down to earth—to have a ground/grass-root perspective rather than an aerial perspective (that might very well influence your position as a mapper).
    So I just want to say that there were thousands of young and old, men and women, Muslim (Shi’a and Sunni) and non-Muslims, Kurds, Syrians and Iraqis, civilians and militants, who lost their lives on the frontlines fighting ISIS, fighting for every inch of their lands and homes. Point being, I don’t think it’s fair to them to assign that military “victory” to the US-led coaltion, that in some instances had even hit civilian targets…

  5. Steve Brier

    I have to say I agree with Farah completely on this issue. It’s not about politicizing the issue; it was already full politicized. Recalling the thousands who fought and died fighting ISIS is an important thing to recall and does bring this story back “down to earth,” as Farah suggests, even as we try to assess the long term impact and meaning of ISIS’s defeat in the region.

  6. Patrick Grady O'Malley Post author

    I agree entirely and I wish I had time and resources to include a more through representation of who was also fighting Daesh. However, I only used the BBC map specific to the US coalitions and the land lost over time. I did not include any of the brave groups of people you mentioned nor any NATO allies and that is a flaw in the project to be sure. There is lilmitless possibilities for this mapping project unfortunately I was only able to put so much together without dedicating far more time, which would have been a great thing to do. I have great respect for the brave Kurds, Iraqiis, and Syrians who have suffered so much and fought so bravely against Daesh. I apologize if this caused you distress.

  7. Steve Brier

    No criticism of you intended, Patrick. It was an assignment to use a tool, which you did, but it reminds us that tools, especially maps, are not neutral things. They express, even subliminally, perspective, points-of-view, and sometimes outright politics. This isn’t a question of how to lie with maps; more a case of how to elide (exclude or veil) with maps. We always have to be attuned to the politics that undergird digital tools, whether we’re dealing with digital mapping or Facebook.

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