Boy was House of Cards Season 4 dark. Episode 1-12 spoilers ahead: After killing Meechum, having Frank get shot, and producing the Zoe Barnes return of Frank's nightmares, House of Cards also introduced ICO, a terrorist organization, for America to deal with. ICO stands for Islamic Caliphate Organization, but what is a caliphate? The organization may not be real, but that term certainly is. In 2014, real terror group ISIS, which bears a resemblance to ICO in location and motive (Netflix declined to comment on any similarities), formed its own caliphate.
According to The Wire, "A caliphate is an Islamic state. It's led by a caliph, who is a political and religious leader who is a successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. His power and authority is absolute." Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is the caliph of ISIS, and his 2014-established caliphate is reportedly governed by a set of stringent rules. According to a 2014 article in The Washington Post, these rules include women not being allowed outdoors, amputation as punishment for stealing, and any renouncement of religion resulting in death.
According to a 2016 Business Insider article, ISIS has made fleeing the caliphate nearly impossible, and it encompasses a large amount of land across Iraq and Syria, "the de-facto capital of the group's territory, which it calls its 'caliphate,'" reporter Pamela Engel wrote. "There are restrictions on what people can take in and out of ISIS-held cities. And women aren't allowed to go anywhere without a male relative escort."
In September 2015, ISIS issued several propaganda videos and articles advertising their caliphate, according to another Business Insider article. "The videos seek to reinforce the image of the caliphate ... as an Islamic utopia and capitalize on the dangers refugees face as they flee to European countries," Engel wrote. "The articles said leaving for Western nations was 'a dangerous major sin' that was 'a gate towards one's children and grandchildren abandoning Islam for Christianity, atheism, or liberalism.'"
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, spoke to Engel in the same Business Insider article. He claimed that, despite the group's messages, ISIS' caliphate is not being operated the way "a legitimate caliphate" should be. "They claim to create this Islamic utopia, and Muslims are fleeing in droves," he said. "A legitimate caliphate ... is supposed to be able to provide services to its citizens."
House of Cards may be a show, but some of the issues Season 4 touched on are all too real, including the idea of a caliphate and the terrifying actions of the extremest organization, ICO, who created one.