- "The Ishbal Massacre" redirects here. For the episode, see Episode 15: The Ishbal Massacre (2003 series).
The Ishval Civil War (also known as the Ishvalan War of Extermination) was a major event in the Fullmetal Alchemist series and set the stage for many of the significant occurrences throughout the plot in the manga, video games, light novels and both anime series.
The people of Ishval had clashed several times with the central government of greater Amestris in the past and had been annexed to a region in the southeast of the nation, near the Eastern Desert. Though religious and cultural tensions continued between Ishvalans and Amestrians, relative peace had been achieved between the two until 1901, when an Amestrian soldier "accidentally" shot and killed an Ishvalan child. In reality (as seen in the manga and 2009 anime series), this soldier was actually Envy in disguise and the killing was deliberate. The area exploded in a storm of riots and protests until the situation had become an all-out civil war, causing massive casualties on both sides. Though the Amestrian Military had the Ishvalans outnumbered by far, Ishvalan rebels were able to keep the conflict going due to a steady supply of munitions from the neighboring country of Aerugo, which aided the rebels in order to weaken Amestris' southern border for their own gains. Thanks to their new weapons and skill at guerilla warfare, the Ishvalans manage to stalemate the Amestrian military forces.
The fighting continued to spread until the entire East Area of Amestris had become a war zone. In 1908, a full seven years since the conflict had begun, Amestrian Führer King Bradley issued Order 3066, sending State Alchemists into the front lines to act as human weapons. This decision decisively, and horrifically, ended the war with the territory of Ishval being occupied by Amestrian soldiers and the surviving Ishvalans spread throughout the country as refugees.
It is later discovered that the Ishval War, along with all of Amestris' past military conflicts, was used to create the massive bloodshed needed for the Nationwide Transmutation Circle. Ishval was the second to last corner of the outer pentagon to be hit (the last being the North), and the circle was activated roughly eight years after the end of the war.
Toll of the Ishval Civil War
As a result of the devastation unleashed on the Ishvalans, their entire race was nearly wiped out with the survivors driven from their homes in Ishval. This war also took its toll on Amestris: in flashbacks, it was shown that many Amestrian soldiers were killed including a small squad wiped out by Scar. Urey and Sara Rockbell, who served as doctors to both sides of the conflict, were also victims of the war. Before the State Alchemists were called into action, the entire eastern area of Amestris was made into a war zone. Resembool, home of the Elric brothers, was bombed by Ishvalans causing its growth to be perpetually stunted. However, the toll it took was more mental and emotional than physical. This war also gave a note of infamy for State Alchemists for their horrific part in the massacre.
In the aftermath, many State Alchemists relinquished their certification due to deep regrets for their actions. Dr. Tim Marcoh was guilt-stricken with creating the Philosopher's Stone to win the war, at the cost of many Ishvalan lives. This caused him to take his research and the stone and go into hiding. Major Alex Louis Armstrong suffered a massive emotional breakdown for claiming innocent lives. Another state alchemist, Isaac McDougal, was so mentally damaged by his crimes in the war, that he became a traitor to Amestris and tries to freeze Central Command over. Riza Hawkeye and Roy Mustang also felt a lot of guilt for killing citizens. Some of the only people who did not feel guilty for their acts during the war were Fessler, Basque Grand, Solf J. Kimblee, and Giolio Comanche, all of whom suffered misfortune. Fessler, a general with reckless leadership skills that cost the lives of many of his men, was shot and killed by Grand. Kimblee, a psychopath, became obsessed with the stone and later killed several of his superior officers and was imprisoned for it. Grand and Commache would become victims of Scar, a vengeful Ishvalan serial killer. Commanche, having lost his left leg during the war continued blaming the Ishvalans, and swore revenge.
Still, the civil war greatly benefited the Automail industry. During the war, numerous survivors suffered amputations and caused them to get automail as prosthetic limbs. Although Pinako Rockbell regretted the loss of her son and her daughter-in-law, was nevertheless grateful for the profit she made in relation to the war.
In the 2003 anime, the Ishvalan Civil War was also reported to have broken out when an Amestrian soldier accidentally shot an Ishbalan civilian. Though it is never clarified whether or not it was a child that was killed, it hardly matters, as the entire incident was a fabrication put together by Pride, who placed the blame on the soldier Juliette Douglas, who had actually died two years before the alleged shot rang out.
In actuality, the true cause of the war was a black-operations mission carried out by a specialized squadron of Amestrian soldiers (among whom numbered the still-human Loa, Dorchet and Martel). Under orders to eliminate suspected terrorists, the soldiers stormed an Ishbalan Temple in the dead of night and killed all they found. (the only Ishbalan survivor of this attack was Scar's Mentor, who was hidden under the floor by his disciples before they were killed.)
The morning following the attack on the temple, the outraged Ishbalans began to riot, and taking advantage of the situation, Führer-King Bradley ordered Eastern troops in to bring the rioters under control. The situation only worsened, and the war soon broke out in full-force.
At some point during the war (possibly years, though no concrete timeline is ever established), Brigadier General Basque Grand authorized the used of Alchemic Amplifiers (in reality, imperfect Philosopher's Stones developed by Doctor Marcoh) for the State Alchemists deployed to the front lines. Within a single night, all the major conflict areas were brought under the military's control in what was described as a pure slaughter.
Following this event, the war focused on tracking down major threats among the remaining defeated Ishbalans. Among the officers carrying out these missions was Solf J. Kimblee, the Crimson Alchemist, who was tried and condemned to death for "indiscriminately making women and children go BOOM!" during these raids. Scar's family and fellow villagers were killed during one such raid as they were fleeing what remained of Ishbal.
- If Amestris is considered a fictional counterpart of Germany, the Ishval Civil War could possibly be a reference to the Herero Wars which lasted from 1904–1908. Just like the Ishvalans, the Herero lived near a desert, with little water, and were primarily cattle herders. When they rebelled against the German colonial authorities they were brutally massacred, with most of them dying due to starvation. After they were driven to the desert, many of them tried to flee but died of dehydration and hunger, with a few Herero reaching a safe haven, similarly to the Ishvalans who fled to Xerxes.
- In Conqueror of Shamballa, allusions were made likening the Ishvalans to both the Romani and Jewish peoples, making their persecution following WWI similar to the Ishvalans' own plight.