The concept of extremism in its current form wasn’t popular in the Middle East until early 21st century with the American occupation of Iraq in 2003 to “spread the democracy there”. This period was the start point of extremism in the area and forming extremist organizations who took Iraq as its base.
These groups didn’t randomly chose Iraq but chose it for the chaos and others reasons which lured many young men from different social and religious background, dozens of buses daily crossed to Iraq for many months carrying young men who aim for “Jihad” in Iraq, many people including me saw the scene as I am from a Syrian city close to Iraq borders, more than 25 thousands majority went back to their towns and villages shortly after US army fully captured Iraq.
The extremist background of who went to fight in Iraq can’t be confirmed entirely, but I knew many young men from eastern Syria who went to fight in Iraq, some came back while other stayed there, among them there was a young man who wasn’t religious at all, he used to drink alcohol, wear a golden necklace and sell adult movies tapes, everything about him was contradicted to the religious extremism but this huge change didn’t take more than a week.
Another young man who was a lawyer and a huge fan of Iraqi music, he had a whole library of more than 500 records of Iraqi music and considered it his fortune, he wasn’t seen praying or doing any religious ritual before, only a few hours after hearing the fall of Baghdad he made up his mind and burned all the music records and travelled to Iraq.
Many examples similar to the stories of these two guys but this doesn’t deny that some went there because of an extremist background which was fuelled for years, but what’s is important is that many became an extremist due to different motives but all based on Physics law “Action and Reaction” which says “for each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” which apply to many sides of life, the reaction here is the extremism but according to the law there must an action behind it, the action was when many of these young men saw the US aerial bombardment on Iraqi cities from their roofs in areas near the borders or on TVs, the aerial bombardment led to civilian casualties which was enough to move thousands to stop this, but because the original action was extremist so there must be another opposite reaction even if the original action was under the democracy cover but on ground naming doesn’t have much importance and issues are measured by it behaviours and affects.
In Syria, the extremism was far from Syrian revolution until early 2012 when al-Qaeda organization announced the formation of its Syrian branch “Nusra Front” which was the start of many religious-based extremist groups leading to the rise of “Islamic State in Iraq and Sham ISIS” who sits on the throne of all extremist groups now.
This rise of extremist groups was based on two important human actors, first, is the Syrian armed groups who were fighting in Iraq before then went back to Syria and lived in their houses or in regime prisons, the second actor-which is the majority- the young men who are similar to the one mentioned earlier who went to Iraq without an extremist background, the first actor took the rule of leadership on the other actor using them as a human resources, the first group can’t be categorized as a “reaction” but the second group can be considered a reaction, for 2 years after the Syrian revolution the Assad regime was using all his military power to fight a peaceful revolution without any action from the International Community to stop the extremism from growing bigger, the solution for these people was the equality of the killed with his crime whether it was an action or a reaction and they found in extremist groups what they were looking for, with the absence of legal action against Assad crimes you can’t convince the father of a dead child that what he is doing considered “terrorism” while what Assad regime is doing is “counter-terrorism”.
The idiom “democracy” resurfaced in 2017 when Syrian Democratic Forces also are known as SDF\QSD backed by US-led coalition against ISIS tried to spread democracy and fight terrorism similar to the American way in Iraq, it destroyed more than 80% of Raqqa city, killed more than 2000 civilians and injured more than 7000 then moved to Deir Ezzor city with the same rhythm causing the displacement of around 250k civilians who were in the city, these forces also detained displaced civilians in inhuman conditions and imposed forced conscription which angered them more.
The same applies to Russia and Assad regime who caused the death of more than 1500 civilians in Deir Ezzor in the latest battles which are added to the crimes committed by Assad regime backed by Putin.
The recent military operations in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor provinces caused the displacement of more than half a million of civilians, each one carries in his memory the scenes of bodies in the streets and destroyed houses in addition to something symbolic reminds them of someone they lost in these operations, they aren’t extremist at all and they are still holding on their humanity but when the reactions are still targeting them under the pretext of democracy it warns of an equal and opposite reactions.