The Shrinking Extent of ISIS

Yes, ISIS does receive a lot of attention in the media and during the presidential debates. But you might be surprised to learn that actually the organisation has lost a significant amount of territory lately. This BBC article details the territorial changes through a nice interactive map slider.

Use the scroller to see the changes over time
Use the scroller to see the changes over time

You could create a single map showing the losses/gains instead of using this light-duty interactive piece. And to the BBC’s credit they did. However, between the image quality and territorial changes, I think in this instance the interactive piece does add clarity to the story.

All in one map
All in one map

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

Syria’s Refugees

We go from one crisis to another, as we go back to Syria. This piece from Bloomberg is very nicely designed and is almost entirely in black and white. We often think that because computer, everything needs to be in a rainbow of shiny, shiny colours. But here we have places where the designers smartly used patterns and smart labelling to avoid the need for colour.

A fantastic black and white map
A fantastic black and white map

Credit for the piece goes to Cindy Hoffman, Dave Merrill, Chris Nosenzo, Mira Rojanasakul, and Blacki Migliozzi.

Making Sense of the Syrian Civil War

Well, I mean trying to is this piece by the Washington Post. Included are several diagrams at key phases of the conflict that attempt to show how the various parties interacted with each other.

Look at all the actors on stage…
Look at all the actors on stage…

Ultimately the key takeaway is that Syria is a mess and it is not getting any better. So let’s just add some more lines in there, am I right?

Credit for the piece goes to Denise Lu and Gene Thorp.

Organising and Structuring ISIS

Yesterday we looked at the Russian sale of advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran. Let’s stay in the Middle East and look at one of the forces that Iran—among many others, the US included—is fighting: ISIS, or Islamic State.  We all know it from its ruthless, zealous, brutal application of Islamic law to the territories it controls. But is the organisation itself really that “religious”?

Der Spiegel obtained documents in late 2014 that had been in the possession of Hajj Bakr, who had quietly outlined much of the structure of ISIS and how the group would function. The article is a thrilling read, if you are into these kinds of things, and depicts an ISIS different than what many would possibly suspect.

So why are we talking about it here? Because organisations require diagrams or flow charts of responsibilities. The folder of files that Spiegel obtained included just such things, and below is an example included in the article.

Organising ISIS
Organising ISIS

Credit for the originals go to Hajj Bakr.

How ISIS Got This Far

The Washington Post is also helping us understand the spread of ISIS. This time a bit more interactively than we have seen from the Times. This is a step-by-step (ish) explanation. Though, I quibble with the decision to link cities by dotted lines. That can create the illusion that ISIS fighters moved directly from city to city when I highly doubt they took that exact path.

Guide to the spread of ISIS
Guide to the spread of ISIS

Credit for the piece goes to Swati Sharma, Laris Karklis, and Gene Thorp.

The Spread of ISIS

ISIS is the main militant group threatening Iraq (and Syria) these days. The New York Times put together a nice graphic showing how in recent years the group has grown ever more violent by launching ever more attacks within Iraq. Of course, the other country of ISIS operations is Syria, where it has been involved in civil war for years now. This creates a battle-hardened group of fighters that is now, thanks to the fall of Mosul and Iraqi banks and military bases, well funded and well equipped.

ISIS attacks in Iraq
ISIS attacks in Iraq

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

Iraq. Again.

Well, Iraq is in the news again. Basically because the Islamist insurgency in Syria has now crossed the border—to be fair, though, that happened awhile back—and taken control over swathes of northern Iraq. Part of that swath includes the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city with a population of almost 2 million.

The New York Times has been putting together a series of maps to explain the background of why this is happening (hint: that Shia–Sunni divide we talked about years ago, well it’s back) as well as where this is happening.

The Shia–Sunni–Kurdish divide
The Shia–Sunni–Kurdish divide

Credit for the piece goes to Sarah Almukhtar, Jeremy Ashkenas, Bill Marsh, Archie Tse, Tim Wallace, Derek Watkins, and Karen Yourish.

Syrian Anti-tank Missiles

Rebels in Syria have recently acquired American-made anti-tank missiles. But for those who don’t know how exactly the TOW missile system works, the Washington Post illustrated it. In theory, these weapons will give the rebels an advantage over Syrian armour.

TOW missile system
TOW missile system

Credit for the piece goes to Richard Johnson.

Scale of Syria’s Refugees

So that civil war in Syria thing, yeah, it’s still going on, folks. And lots of people—7,000,000 of them—have been forced to flee to either external or internal locations. Al Jazeera has attempted to put that number into context for Americans using US census data and maps.

Here is a look at both Philadelphia and Chicago for comparison’s sake. The interactive application has a few pre-selected options, or you can find your own US locale.

Syrian refugees based on Philadelphia's population
Syrian refugees based on Philadelphia’s population
Syrian refugees based on Chicago's population
Syrian refugees based on Chicago’s population

Credit for the piece goes to Michael Keller.

Zaatari Refugee Camp for Displaced Syrians

The Syrian crisis is pushing people out of Syria. Unfortunately, most of the refugees are fleeing to places not wholly equipped or supplied to handle such large numbers. In this interactive piece of journalism, the BBC explores the difficulties in just one camp, Zaatari in the desert of Jordan.

My favourite element is this interactive map. It uses four satellite photographs taken at a few months interval and compares the growth of the camp; the growth is striking. The piece contains a diagrammatic view of the camp, identifying key areas, e.g. education areas, as well as a comparison to a new refugee camp named Azraq to host the overflow population. Fortunately, that camp is being designed with the lessons learned from Zaatari.

Zaatari Camp in November 2012
Zaatari Camp in November 2012

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics team.