“Support For Sisters Please”: Comparing The Online Roles Of Al-Qaeda Women And Their Islamic State Counterparts

This study evaluates female roles in pro-jihadist terrorism by examining online content. Data was collected from 36 Twitter accounts of women associated with al-Qaeda (AQ) affiliated groups for a period of six months. The purpose for collecting this data was to: 1) compare how traditional female roles, as constructed within a jihadi-Salafist ideology, are reproduced and challenged on social media; 2) and determine the extent that AQ-affiliated women conform to roles outlined in Huey’s classification of females in pro-Islamic State (IS) Twitter networks. The results of this study reveal that women’s traditional roles in pro-jihadist activities are reproduced on Twitter. Although the women appear to be empowered by the anonymity that Twitter provides, their roles remain largely constrained to those in supportive positions. AQ women mainly use Twitter to share the ideological beliefs of AQ and provide emotional support for fellow AQ members. In comparison with IS, AQ females subscribe to only a portion of the roles outlined in Huey’s classification.

Tags: Extremism, jihad, Social Media, women