How ISIS Rebels Distinguish Sunnis From Shiites

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 25 2014 1:05 PM

How ISIS Rebels Distinguish Sunnis From Shiites  

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A rebel fighter outside ISIS' Aleppo headquarters in January.

Photo by MOHAMMED WESAM/AFP/Getty Images

The religious divide between the Sunnis and Shiites has been at the heart of the crisis in Iraq and Syria, as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rebels believe that Shiites must be eradicated. Today the New York Times has a piece based on interviews with survivors of ISIS encounters about the criteria the rebels use to determine who belongs to what group. The answers can make the difference between life and death. For example:

A quick look at an Iraqi’s national identity card or passport can be a signal. Shiites believe that the leadership of Islam was passed down through the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali and his sons Hussain (or Hussein), Hassan and Abbas, among others. While some Sunnis and members of other Islamic groups may also have those names, ISIS would most likely associate them with the Shiites.
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Irene Chidinma Nwoye is a writer and former Slate intern in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.