The Islamic State Phenomenon

The Islamic State Phenomenon


It has been dominating world headlines for almost two years. Mention of its name – or the wide range of names by which it has been known – stirs up a range of responses and emotions.

The so-called Islamic State –or IS for short – first appeared on the international scene in 2014, seizing large amounts of territory in Syria and Iraq. Images of its black-clad members are often accompanied by reference to its fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia Law, its opposition to Western influence in Muslim world, and footage of its brutality, which includes beheadings and mass executions.

Its influence has since spread to other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, with a number of groups pledging allegiance to it. The IS phenomenon continues to grow, engaging in ever more battles with states and groups in the region, and at the same time raising serious questions about its motives, its intentions, and just how far it’s willing to go to achieve them.

In this the final edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast, we talk to John Turner, Assistant Professor at the Eastern Mediterranean University, who has an extensive research background in Political Islam, the Middle East, and the War on Terror.

Supplementary Resources

What ISIS Really Wants

Could ISIS Exist Without Islam?

ISIS Islamic Extremism | MILITARY AND WAR Channel (vid)


Homegrown Islamic Extremism in 2014: The Rise of ISIS & Sustained Online Recruitment

Counter Extremism Project, ISIS

Life Inside the ISIS Home Base of Raqqa, Syria (vid)

The Guardian. Why ISIS fights

Media, Participation and Democracy

Media, Participation and Democracy

24. DAVID BYRNE Democracy in Action, 2011 multimedia installation with twenty-five digital photo frames overall, 37 1/2 x 78 x 2 1/4 inches

The news media play a critical role in the functioning of democracy. Indeed political systems – whatever shape they take – depend on the media.

Ever since the introduction of the first forms of printed press, the impact of the media has always been present. On the one hand there are notions of the media acting as a “watchdog” of democracy, with the ability to hold elected officials to account by making them answerable for their actions.

On the other however there are instances where the media have demonstrated political bias, often acting as the mouthpieces for political interests.

Such instances, combined with the increasing reliance of the mainstream media on corporate interests, mainly through advertising, has led increasingly to a need for alternative media as a means of informing people about a diversity of news, opinions and voices.

Indeed the last decade has seen the proliferation of new digital technologies that have empowered ordinary citizens to have a voice, and to produce and exchange information; the same voices and information that is often ignored by the mainstream media.

For our interlocutors in this edition of the “Resources for Democracy” podcast, the existence of a power imbalance between the media haves and the have nots is where the crux of the issue lies. With their help and insights, we explore the intricate relationship between democracy, participation, and the media.

Supplementary Resources

LSE Podcasts. Global Media System, Public Knowledge and Democracy (audio)

University of Cambridge. Alastair Campbell: Journalism and democracy: grounds for optimism in the face of the future? (audio)

LSE Podcasts. 2014 Polis Journalism Conference – LSE Media Policy Project session: Watching the watchdogs – Watching the watchdogs (audio)

Harvard University. Partisanship in the Non-Partisan Press: The Implications of Media Bias for Democracy (audio)

LSE Podcasts. Blaming Europe? Citizens, Governments and the Media (audio)

How digital media and big data are redefining democracy: Clifton Van Der Linden at TEDxUofT (vid)

World Forum for Democracy: “Media responsibility and potential to foster democracy” (vid)

DemocracySpot. 12 Papers on Social Media and Political Participation


Spreading the News: The Role of Media in Transitioning Democracies (vid)

States and Sovereignty: Competing Claims to Natural Resources

States and Sovereignty: Competing Claims to Natural Resources

natural resources

Natural resources have become the latest battle ground between states, where competing notions of sovereignty often play out. As states search for new sources of energy to meet growing demands, the boundaries between them have become blurred.

The understanding of sovereignty as ‘permanent’ makes it applicable to the resolution of debates over the resources in projects between states aiming to take advantage of them. The doctrine of ‘Permanent Sovereignty’ is seen as historically linked to the process of decolonisation and the right to self-determination and the ability of states to exercise control over the resources and economic growth.

The recent announcement that the EU will be pushing ahead with a strategy to create an Energy Union has raised eyebrows and furrowed brows amongst member states who see this as further divesting their sovereignty.

Perhaps the most appropriate prism through which to approach the issue of natural resources is that of international law, particularly the ways in which it can resolve contested claims.

In this the second part of the “Resources for Democracy” podcast on sovereignty, we start with Professor Harry Tzimitras outlining the context of international law that frames disputed claims over resources.

Supplementary Resources

General Assembly resolution 1803 (XVII) of 14 December 1962, “Permanent sovereignty over natural resources”


Politics trump economics in the complex game of Eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbons

The Role of International Law in Intrastate Natural Resource Allocation: Sovereignty, Human Rights, and Peoples-Based Development

The Cyprus Hydrocarbons Issue: Context, Positions and Future Scenarios



States, Sovereignty and the Case of Cyprus

States, Sovereignty and the Case of Cyprus


In this edition of the “Resources for Democracy” podcast we unpack the concept of sovereignty.

The primary understanding of sovereignty – as considered within the discipline of international relations – is that it is the central organising principle of the Westphalian state system.

However, debates over sovereignty have increased as the nation-state has aged, while there are a number of contemporary issues that place limit on the exercise of sovereignty. The rise of non-state actors is just one of those issues.

In this first part of our podcast we have enlisted the support of three experts to help us present and delve into different perspectives of the concept of sovereignty while on the second we hear how the debate over sovereignty is shaped, in the case of Cyprus, by the discovery of natural resources and the ways in which competing claims to these are articulated.

Supplementary Resources:

State Responsibility, Sovereignty, and Failed States

The Concept of Sovereignty Revisited

What is Sovereignty?

Sovereignty in Theory and Practice

Sovereignty – Modern: A New Approach to an Outdated Concept

The Changing Structure of International Law: Sovereignty Transformed?

Citizens in Action: The Search for Missing Persons – and the truth – in Cyprus

Citizens in Action: The Search for Missing Persons – and the truth – in Cyprus

missing persons

One of many scars caused by conflict is that of missing persons, whose enduring impact can leave a painful legacy for societies that can take generations to heal.

In search of a clear definition of a missing person, the International Committee of the Red Cross has set out some two key parameters: a person whose whereabouts are unknown to his/her relatives; and who has been reported missing in accordance with the national legislation in connection to international or non-international armed conflict, internal violence or disturbances, natural catastrophes or any other situation that requires the intervention the State.

The missing persons issue is one of the most difficult consequences of the Cyprus conflict. Over the course of the period 1963 to 1974. The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), established in 1981 to ‘establish the fate of missing persons’, sets the total number at 1.958 – 1.464 Greek Cypriots and 494 Turkish Cypriots.

However, as the CMP lay dormant for many years, it was left to civil society to fill the void, advocating for common action on what was, after all, a humanitarian issue of relevance to all Cypriots. Thus, in 2005, a new organisation was established, representing families of both Greek and Turkish Cypriot missing persons, emphasising the link between exposing stories of violence and loss, and preventing conflict in the future.

In this, second part of this edition of the Resources for Democracy podcast on Transitional Justice, we hear from Erbay Akansoy and Christos Efhymiou, two members of the Bi-communal Initiative of Relatives of Missing Persons, Victims of Massacres and other Victims of the 1963-74 Events, about their experiences, their work, and their hopes for the future.

Supplementary Resources:

Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus

Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) – Digging for a Future (vid)

Cyprus: Digging the Past in Search of the Future (documentary) (vid)

Thinking Historically about Missing Persons: A Guide for Teachers, 4. Missing Persons in Cyprus

Transitional Justice in the 21st Century

New Research on Transitional Justice (vid)

Does Transitional Justice Work? (vid)

Civil Society Cyprus Context

Civil Society Cyprus Context



The concept of civil society means a range of things to many different people. This video focuses on different concepts and explanations as to what civil society means with specific reference to Cyprus, and the peace, re-unification and reconciliation process.

Supplementary Resources:

Mahallae: Mapping of Civic Initiatives in Cyprus

Policy Paper on the Empowerment of Civil Society in Cyprus

Civil Society in Reconciliation: beyond the ‘Cyprus problem’

Cyprus Civil Society: Developing Trust and Cooperation

Building Trust and Reconciliation in Cyprus: a civil society toolkit

NGOs in Cyprus


Civil Society Theories and Perspectives

Civil Society Theories and Perspectives


According to the Yearbook of International Organizations, the number of international NGOs was reported to have increased from 6,000 in 1990 to more than 50,000 in 2006. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) exist in many countries throughout the world. This video reflects on what some CSO’s do in three different contexts, Egypt, Lebanon and Cyprus.

Supplementary Resources

Mapping Civil Society Organizations in Lebanon

MIDDLE EASTERN DEMOCRACY Is Civil Society the Answer?

Civil mobilisation and peace in Lebanon

State crime, civil society and resistance: lessons from Tunisia

The obliteration of civil society in Egypt

Civil Society’s Fundamental Role in Egypt

Civil Society and Democratic Transformation in Contemporary Egypt: Premise and Promises

Civil Society in Egypt under the Mubarak Regime

The Cyprus Problem

The Cyprus Problem

Small cyprus086

The Cyprus Problem has remained unsolved for decades. It has been likened in many ways to a Rubric Cube puzzle that cannot be worked out. This video looks at different definitions of what the problem is – how it could possibly be resolved and considers a number of research findings on the past and possibilities for the future.

Supplementary Resources:

The True Story about the Geopolitical Role of Cyprus: David or Goliath? [Audio]

East Mediterranean Hydrocarbons Geopolitical Perspectives, Markets, and Regional Cooperation

Predicting Peace: The Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index as a Tool for Conflict Transformation

The Stream: Cyprus: On the road to unification? (vid)

Exploring different notions of the state

Exploring different notions of the state



In Sociology there are different definitions of the state, which are generally grouped in terms of political and sociological theories and paradigms.

This video explores two fundamentally different positions – the Liberal and Marxist perspectives. It also looks at how the state relates to current economic and political realities in EU countries affected by  financial crisis and issues of legitimation.

Supplementary Resources:

The Fourth Revolution: The global race to re-invent the state (aud)

Multiculturalism and the Liberal State

Concept of class in the writings of Karl Marx and Max Weber (vid)

Exploring the ISIS phenomenon

Exploring the ISIS phenomenon


ISIS  or ISIL, the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has impacted politics and tensions in the region of the Middle East for some years. This video explores some of the key background to understanding how this movement reformed out of different factions into its present day form and what it effect it has had on the security and stability of states in the region.

Supplementary Resources

Life in the Islamic State

What ISIS really wants

Could ISIS Exist Without Islam?

ISIS Islamic Extremism – Military and War Channel (vid)

ISIS on the Frontline – BBC Documentary (vid)

Homegrown Islamic Extremism in 2014: The Rise of ISIS & Sustained Online Recruitment

Counter Extremism Project: ISIS

Why ISIS fights