‘Many Sisters Wish They Were Men’: Gendered Discourse and Themes in pro-ISIS Online Communities

Meili Criezis

Abstract


Though official Islamic State propaganda maintained narratives about women and the appropriate societal roles they were expected to fill, unofficial online content and behavioral patterns of online supporters both amplified and strayed from the official party line. Excellent scholarship has focused on gender dynamics and female membership in the Islamic State however, with the exception of Twitter studies, not as much research has been conducted in the online realm on other platforms. This paper hopes to contribute towards filling the gap by 1) examining 22 conversation exchanges in private pro-ISIS groups; some of which include interactions between male and female members and 2) analyzing prominent themes and narratives displayed in unofficial propaganda about women by addressing how these elements may or may not reflect the official narratives of the Islamic State. The findings are drawn from qualitative and quantitative data gathered from the online platforms of Hoop, Riot (Element), RocketChat, TamTam and Telegram which were selected for their wide popularity among ISIS supporters during a period ranging from 2018-2020.


Keywords


Islamic State; Terrorism; Telegram; Gender; Women; Online

Full Text:

PDF

References


Al-Dayel (2018). Sexual Suppression and Political Agency : Evoking a Woman’s

Support for the Islamic State. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1057610X.2018.1538661. Last accessed December 3, 2020.

Alexander A. et al. (2019). Perspectives on the Future of Women, Gender, &

Violent Extremism. The George Washington University Program on Extremism.

Alkhouri, L., & Kassier, A. (2016, July). Tech for Jihad: Dissecting Jihadists’ Digital Toolbox. Flashpoint. https://a51.nl/sites/default/files/pdf/TechForJihad.pdf

Al-Shishani, M. (2017, November 16). The Dangerous Ideas of the Neo-Zarqawist Movement. Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/the-dangerous-ideas-of-the-neo-zarqawist-movement/. Last accessed November 10, 2020.

Al-Tamimi, Aymenn. (2017). “ISIS Female Suicide Bombers Are No Mytth.” Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2017-09-22/isis-female-suicide-bombers-are-no-myth. Last accessed December 12, 2020.

Amarasingam, A. (2020, March 2). A View from the CT Foxhole: An Interview with an Official at Europol’s EU Internet Referral Unit. Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. https://ctc.usma.edu/view-ct-foxhole-interview-official-europols-eu-internet-referral-unit/. Last accessed November 12, 2020.

Amarasignam, A. (2020, October). WhatsApp conversation exchange.

Asal, V., & Jadoon, A. (2019). When women fight: unemployment, territorial control and the prevalence of female combatants in insurgent organizations. Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/17467586.2019.1700542

Baele, S. J., Boyd, K. A., & Coan, T. G. (2019). ISIS Propaganda: A Full-Spectrum Extremist Message (Causes and Consequences of Terrorism) (Illustrated ed.). Oxford University Press.

Basra, R. (2020, June 26). The YouTube Browsing Habits of a Lone-Actor Terrorist. GNET. https://gnet-research.org/2020/06/22/the-youtube-browsing-habits-of-a-lone-actor-terrorist/. Last accessed November 17, 2020.

BBC Monitoring. (2019, November 25). Europol disrupts Islamic State propaganda machine. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50545816. Last accessed Nov. 5, 2020.

Biswas, B., & Deylami, S. (2019). Radicalizing female empowerment: gender, agency, and affective appeals in Islamic State propaganda. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 30(6–7), 1193–1213. https://doi.org/10.1080/09592318.2019.164983

Bloom, M., Tiflati, H., & Horgan, J. (2017, July). Navigating ISIS’s Preferred Platform: Telegram1. Taylor & Francis. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09546553.2017.133969. Last accessed October 17, 2020.

Bloom, M. and Daymon, C. (2018). Assessing the Future Threat: ISIS’s Virtual Caliphate. Foreign Policy Research Institute. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0030438718300437. Last accessed December 12, 2020.

Bloom, M., & Lokmanoglu, A. (2020). From Pawn to Knights: The Changing Role of Women’s Agency in Terrorism? Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2020.1759263

Braddock, K. (2020). Weaponized Words: The Strategic Role of Persuasion in Violent Radicalization and Counter-Radicalization. Cambridge University Press.

Campbell, J. (2020, March 19). Women, Boko Haram, and Suicide Bombings. Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/blog/women-boko-haram-and-suicide-bombings. Last accessed October 20, 2020.

Conway, M. (2017). Determining the Role of the Internet in Violent Extremism and Terrorism: Six Suggestions for Progressing Research. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1057610X.2016.1157408. Last accessed December 13, 2020.

Cook, D. (2005). Women Fighting in Jihad ? Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 28(5), 375–384. https://doi.org/10.1080/10576100500180212

Cook, J. and Vale, G. (2016). From Daesh to Diaspora: Tracing the Women and Minors of Islamic State. International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. https://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/ICSR-Report-From-Daesh-to-%E2%80%98Diaspora%E2%80%99-Tracing-the-Women-and-Minors-of-Islamic-State.pdf. Last accessed October 13, 2020.

CNN shares insight into ISIS’s recruiting techniques ... (2015, February 18). Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/cnn-isis-kitten-nutella-banner-2015-2?international=true&r=US&IR=T. Last accessed October 10, 2020.

Criezis, M. (2020). Online Deceptions: Renegotiating Gender Boundaries on ISIS Telegram. Perspectives on Terrorism. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/26891986.pdf. Last accessed December 12, 2020.

Criezis, M. (2020, July 30). Telegram’s anti-IS Campaign: Effectiveness, Perspectives, and Policy Suggestions. GNET. https://gnet-research.org/2020/07/30/telegrams-anti-is-campaign-effectiveness-perspectives-and-policy-suggestions/. Last accessed October 20, 2020.

Davis, J. (2017). Women in modern terrorism: From liberation wars to global Jihad and the Islamic State. Rowman & Littlefield.

Davis, J. (2020). The Future of the Islamic State Women: assessing their potential threat. International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. https://icct.nl/app/uploads/2020/06/The-future-of-the-Islamic-State%E2%80%99s-Women-assessing-their-potential-threat.pdf. Last accessed December 15, 2020.

Dearden, L. (2020, July 3). Safiyya Shaikh: How an unemployed London mother ran an international Isis propaganda network. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/safiyya-shaikh-isis-st-pauls-cathedral-london-terror-attack-bomb-a9599946.html. Last accessed October 18, 2020.

Daymon, C. (2020, August 24). Online Extremist Funding Campaigns: COVID-19 and Beyond. GNET. https://gnet-research.org/2020/08/24/online-extremist-funding-campaigns-covid-19-and-beyond/. Last accessed October 18, 2020.

Erin, S and Smith, M. (2015). ‘Till Martyrdom Do Us Part: Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon. Institute For Strategic Dialogue. https://giwps.georgetown.edu/resource/till-martyrdom-do-us-part/. Last accessed October 13, 2020.

Europol. (2019). Europol and Telegram take on terrorist propaganda online. https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/europol-and-telegram-take-terrorist-propaganda-online. Last accessed October 21, 2020.

Europol. (2020). Online Jihadist propaganda: 2019 in review. https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/online-jihadist-propaganda-2019-in-review. Last accessed November 10, 2020.

Fraihi, H. (2018). The Future of Feminism by ISIS is in the Lap of Women. International Annals of Criminology, 56 (1–2), 23–31. https://doi.org/10.1017/cri.2018.7

Jaffer, N. (2018, April 14). The secret world of Isis brides: “U dnt hav 2 pay 4 ANYTHING if u r wife of a martyr.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/24/isis-brides-secret-world-jihad-western-women-syria. Last accessed October 15, 2020.

Hamilton, B. (2020, March 14). Inside one man’s secret mission to rescue jihadi brides from ISIS. New York Post. https://nypost.com/2020/03/14/inside-one-mans-secret-mission-to-rescue-jihadi-brides-from-isis/. Last accessed October 15, 2020.

Hoffman, Adam. (2016). The Islamic State’s Use of Social Media: Terrorism’s Siren Song in the Digital Age. The Institute for National Security Studies. https://www.inss.org.il/publication/islamic-states-use-social-media-terrorisms-siren-song-digital-age/. Last accessed December 12, 2020.

Hoyle, C., Bradford, A., Frenett, R. (2015). Becoming Mulan? Female Western Migrants to ISIS. Institute for Strategic Dialogue. https://www.isdglobal.org/isd-publications/becoming-mulan-female-western-migrants-to-isis/. Last accessed December 3, 2020.

Ingram, H. J., Whiteside, C., & Winter, C. (2020). The ISIS Reader: Milestone texts of the Islamic state movement. London: Hurst & Company.

Inside the Khilafah 7. (2018).

Khalil, L. (2019, July 15). Behind the Veil: Women in jihad after the caliphate. Lowley Institute. https://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/behind-veil-women-jihad-after-caliphate. Last accessed December 12, 2020.

Krona, M. (2020, October 21). Revisiting the Ecosystem of Islamic State’s ‘Virtual Caliphate.’ GNET. https://gnet-research.org/2020/10/21/revisiting-the-ecosystem-of-islamic-states-virtual-caliphate/. Last accessed November 3, 2020.

Krona, M. (2020, March 8). Mediating Islamic State| Collaborative Media Practices and Interconnected Digital Strategies of Islamic State (IS) and Pro-IS Supporter Networks on Telegram | Krona | International Journal of Communication. International Journal of Communication. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/9861. Last accessed October 29, 2020.

Lahoud, N. (2018). Empowerment or Subjugation: An Analysis of ISIL’s Gender Messaging. UN Women Arab States. https://arabstates.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2018/6/empowerment-or-subjugation. Last accessed October 20, 2020.

Lokmanoglu, A. (2020). Coin as Imagined Sovereignty: A Rhetorical Analysis of Coins as a Transhistorical Artifact and an Ideograph in Islamic State’s Communication. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1057610X.2020.1793458?journalCode=uter20. Last accessed December 12, 2020.

Maher, S. (2016). Salafi-Jihadism: The History of An Idea. Oxford University press.

Meleagrou-Hitchens, A., Hughes, S,. Cliffort, B. (2020.) Homegrown: ISIS in America. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Mironova, V. (2020, July 9). Life inside Syria’s al-Hol camp. Middle East Institute. https://www.mei.edu/publications/life-inside-syrias-al-hol-camp. Last accessed November 5, 2020.

Moaveni, A. Guest House for Young Widows Among The Women of ISIS. Random House.

Nanninga, Pieter. (2019). Branding a Caliphate in Decline: The Islamic State’s Video Output (2015-2018). International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. https://icct.nl/publication/branding-a-caliphate-in-decline-the-islamic-states-video-output-2015-2018/. Last accessed December 12, 2020

Pearson, E. (2018). Why Men Fight and Women Don’t: Masculinity and Extremist Violence. Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

Qazi, F. (2018). Invisible Martyrs: Inside the Secret World of Female Islamic Radicals. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Rumiyah. (2017). Issue 11.

Saltman, E. and Smith, M. ‘Till Martyrdom Do Us Part’ Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon. Institute for Strategic Dialogue. https://www.isdglobal.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/02/Till_Martyrdom_Do_Us_Part_Gender_and_the_ISIS_Phenomenon.pdf. Last accessed October 13, 2020.

Telegram Archives, 2016, 2018, 2019. The abbreviation “TA” is used for citations and the year references the original date of when the content was posted.

Thompson, D. (2016). Les Revenants : Ils Était partis farie le jihad, ils sont de retour en France. Editions du Seuil.

Vale, G. (2019, October 17). Women in Islamic State: From Caliphate to Camps. ICCT. https://icct.nl/publication/women-in-islamic-state-from-caliphate-to-camps/. Last accessed October 29, 2020.

Veilleux-Lepage, Y. (2016). Paradigmatic Shifts in Jihadism in Cyberspace: The Emerging Role of Unaffiliated Sympathizers in Islamic State’s Social Media Strategy. Journal of Terrorism Research, 7(1), 36. https://doi.org/10.15664/jtr.1183

Wilgenburg, W. V. (2020, October 21). Yezidi group infuriated by Dutch play allegedly glorifying ISIS convict. Kurdistan24. https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/5f268c72-2fdb-48de-a720-5e601628c9de. Last accessed October 20, 2020.

Winter, C. (2015). The Virtual ‘Caliphate’: Understanding Islamic State’s Propaganda Strategy. Quilliam. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/30671634.pdf. Last accessed Deember 12, 2020.

Winter, C. (2015). Women of the Islamic State: A Manifesto on Women by the Al-Khanssaa Brigade. Translation. Quilliam. https://therinjfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/women-of-the-islamic-state3.pdf. Last accessed October 15, 2020.

Winter, C. (2016). “My Muslim sister, indeed you are a mujahidah” – Narratives in the propaganda of the Islamic State to address and radicalize Western Women. An Exemplary analysis of the magazine Dabiq. Journal For Deradicalization. https://journals.sfu.ca/jd/index.php/jd/article/view/73. Last accessed December 12, 2020.

Winter, C., & Margolin, D. (2017). The Mujahidat Dilemma: Female Combatants and the Islamic State. CTC Sentinel, 10 (7), 26. https://ctc.usma.edu/the-mujahidat-dilemma-female-combatants-and-the-islamic-state/. Last accessed January 22, 2020.

Winter, C. (2018). ISIS, Women and Jihad: Breaking With Convention. Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. https://institute.global/policy/isis-women-and-jihad-breaking-convention. Last accessed October 11, 2020.

Zelin, A. (2013, February). The State of Global Jihad Online. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-state-of-global-jihad-online. Last accessed November 9, 2020.

Zenn, J. (2020). Unmasking Boko Haram: Exploring Global Jihad in Nigeria. Lynne Rienner Publishers.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2020 Meili Criezis

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

ISSN: 2363-9849 

Proud Member of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)