Promises Of Paradise? – A Study On Official ISIS-Propaganda Targeting Women

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011 close to 30 000 foreign recruits from more than 100countries have migrated to the area of Iraq and Syria in support of the terrorist organization this thesis will refer to as ISIS. Among those traveling is a historically unprecedented number of women. Why women are drawn to violent Islamic extremist groups is rather unexplored. Through a qualitative text analysis of official ISIS-propaganda, this thesis investigates what promises the organization makes to women, examining pull-factors derived from social media studies of female migration to ISIS-held territories. The thesis concludes that women are promised the possibility to fulfill their religious duty, become important state builders, experience deep and meaningful belonging and sisterhood, to live an exciting adventure and find true romance, as well as being increasingly influential is also promised. Official propaganda does not make explicit promises to women of exerting violence. A secondary purpose of the thesis is to assess the potential risk that ISIS-affiliated women returning to the West, pose to society. This thesis further concludes that women who gain limited knowledge of handling weapons and explosives in ISIS-territory are not probable participants in armed terrorist attacks directed towards the West. However, through increased social networks acquired while in Syria or Iraq, women may play an important supporting role in the process of planning, crowdfunding and executing attacks. Based on these findings the thesis provides some gender-specific policy proposals intended to counter the recruitment of women to ISIS.

Tags: ISIS, Online, Propaganda, women