red colored state map of the world

Mapping territorial control in Syria

A young student maps out the territorial control of Iraq, Libya, and Syria as it evolves and posts these maps to his twitter account.

Thomas Van Linge, a 19-year-old Dutch student, maps out the territorial control of Iraq, Libya and Syria as it evolves and posts these maps to his twitter account. These maps are then shared with his 25,000 followers and are often cited by major news organisations as accurate depictions of who controls which areas in these countries. 

He usually creates these maps on Google Earth through sources gathered from social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and also from personal contacts in the region. He estimates that he uses over 1,100 sources for his Syrian maps to verify claims of territorial control. 

In an interview with Newsweek in June 2015 he said “I want to inform people mostly and show people the rebel dynamics in the country. I also want to inform journalists who want to go to the region which regions are definitely no-go zones, which regions are the most dangerous, and also to show strategic developments through time.” He goes onto describe his motivations for creating these maps, “I hadn’t really considered it at the time, but I was annoyed by other maps that didn’t make the distinction between rebels and ISIS groups of areas, which were still at the time intertwined.” 

It isn't just Syria, Iraq and Libya that he's monitoring but also Boko Haram in Nigeria and separatists in Eastern Ukraine. In an interview with Der Spiegel he says he's looking at, "All places where people are rising up." 

Image taken by Der Spiegel