A Mess in Marawi


Julianna Aguja, News Editor

The Philippine Government has recently announced that the city of Marawi has been recaptured from ISIS militant forces. Marawi, a major city on the island of Mindanao, was under Islamic militant control for over 5-months and was the battleground for a vicious war between the Filipino military and ISIS.

The 5-month battle between radical Islamic terrorists and the Philippine Armed Forces has come to an end, with a decisive victory for the Filipino government. On October 16th, the President of the Philippines,Rodrigo Duterte, reported that the leaders of the terrorist groups in Marawi, as well as the majority of their fighters, were killed by Filipino troops. Though the siege may have come to an end, the recent news of a new emir being chosen to lead all ISIS-related groups in Southeast Asia is troubling many. Additionally, ISIS and its affiliates are gaining followership in Southeast Asia, a fact that is, without a doubt, scary and unsettling.

The Philippines is a predominantly Christian country.  however, there is a sizeable Muslim population in Mindanao. The island of Mindanao is divided into 6 regions, one being the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – the only region with a non-Christian majority population in the country. There has been a strong Islamic presence in the area since the early 14th century when Kari Abdul Jakol, an Arab trader, reached Mindanao and spread Islam across the Island. In 1380, the first mosque was erected in the Philippines and Islam has thrived in the southernmost portions of the country ever since.

Islamic rebels and militant groups have had roots on the island for centuries. The creation of domestic Islamic terror groups in the Philippines stems from the institutional and systemic discrimination that Filipino-Muslims face. For hundreds of years, Muslims in the Philippines have been subjected to discrimination by Christian citizens in the region and in the country at large. To this day, the city of Marawi is segregated by religion. The decades of oppression that the Islamic population has gone through caused these violent radical groups to be created. This fact does not justify the creation of terror organizations, but it clearly illustrates how Muslims have reacted to oppression over the years. Along with being extremely underrepresented in the central Philippine government, Muslims in the Philippines are seen as outsiders by many Filipinos. The frustration of feeling isolated led to vulnerability in some Muslims in Mindanao. This vulnerability made it easy for ISIS to spread radical beliefs and influence large portions of the area.

Currently, Marawi is in the midst of a terrible crisis. Though the battle may have ended, the city is far from close to returning to normalcy. ABS-CBN, a major news corporation in the Philippines, reported that, according to Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the counterterrorism unit fighting in Marawi, “822 militants, 162 government [officials] and 47 civilians have been killed.” The atrocities in Marawi were all perpetrated by ISIS-affiliated groups, mainly the Maute. The Maute group, also known as the Islamic State of Lanao, was started by two radical Islamic Filipinos, Abdullah and Omar Maute. The extremist group, which is estimated to have over 500 members, started to forge connections with ISIS in recent years. The Maute attack on Marawi City is undoubtedly the strongest and most deadly attack that the group has carried out. The Mautes worked in conjunction with another dangerous militant group, the Abu Sayyaf, under the leadership of Isnilon Hapilon.

In just 5 months, the terrorists in Marawi managed to completely ruin the city and displace over 350,000 people. To give you a better idea of the destruction in Marawi, the estimated cost to rebuild the city is $1.1 billion dollars. Marawi, a city once known for its beautiful lakes and stunning torogan architecture, has been reduced to nothing but the crumbling remains of buildings. People are living among the ruins, and there have been reports of people dying in recent days due to dehydration and starvation.

The road to rebuilding Marawi will not be an easy one. Majul Gandamra, Marawi’s mayor, told reporters that, “‘physically, it will definitely take us [a] long period of time to fully reconstruct Marawi and make it livable especially in the war-torn [areas].’” Japan has already pledged to help the Philippines rebuild Marawi. The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, promised to cooperate with President Duterte to ensure that the rebuilding process is not drawn out. Additionally, the European Union is preparing to gihttps://newcolumns.org/wp-admin/post-new.php?custom-write-panel-id=1#edit_timestampve the Philippines $118 million dollars to aid with the reconstruction of Marawi and the relocation of Marawi residents.

Numerous reports from American and Filipino news outlets say that a new emir, or leader, has been chosen to front one of the largest Southeast Asian terrorist groups: the Abu Sayyaf. Experts predict that radical influences will not leave the region any time soon.