ATbar The Islamic State on Social Media – Recruiting Western Women

The Islamic State on Social Media – Recruiting Western Women

23/02/2016 | by Pues, Viktoria  

“[T]hey took me to the “Hesba” headquarters in the city, and escorted me to the torture chamber, then they asked me to choose between a whip or a “biter”[.] I did not know what a “biter” was and I thought it is a reduced sentence, I was afraid of whipping, so I choose the “biter”, then they brought a sharp object that has a lot of teeth and held me, placing it on my chest and pressing it strongly, I screamed from pain and I was badly injured. They later took me to the hospital.”  “[…] [My] femininity had been completely destroyed.“ [1]

This story comes from a young woman from Raqqa, Syria. She was caught breastfeeding her baby in public by the Al-Khansaa Brigades – an all-female police unit enforcing Sharia Law among women.[2]

The story is far from an exception. The violation of women’s human rights has reached a new level of horror in the so-called Islamic State. Such information and reports are widely spread over the Internet and covered by the big media agencies. Nonetheless, women living in western states continue to make the decision to leave their countries and to migrate to the Caliphate. According to the US National Counterterrorism Center, there are currently around 20,000 foreign fighters located in the territories controlled by Daesh, the Islamic State. Among these 3,000 are Western Foreign Fighters, including 550 women.[3]

This paper will deal with the question, of how Daesh uses social media – in particular the phenomenon of blogging - to recruit western women to join the Islamic State. For this goal the blog of the young Scottish girl, Aqsa Mahmood, who migrated to Syria and Iraq will be portrayed and analyzed with respect to three sub-questions: who, what and why. Firstly, we will look at the blog’s author and reader: Who is Aqsa Mahmood and to who is her target audience? Secondly, the content will be interpreted. What is said, what promises made, and what expectations arise from those? Thirdly, we will look at how the content is presented in terms of language, rhetoric, pictures and design. The blog has been online already since 2013 and the amount of posts exceeds a number of 5000. Due to a lack of capacities this paper will only analyze the posts published from the territory controlled by the so-called Islamic State (November 14, 2013 until October 3, 2015). Further studies should proceed an in depth analysis of the blogposts published before that time in order to track the process of radicalization.

[1] Guyle, D. (2014). “All female All-female Islamic State police squad tortured new mother with spiked clamp device called a 'biter' after she was caught breastfeeding in public”. Daily Mail

[2] Peresin, A. & Cervone, A. (2015). “The Western Muhajirat of ISIS.”  Studies in Conflict & Terrorism.

[3] Petrou, M. (2015). “'Teen girl jihadists'”. Maclean's. 128, 10: 28-30.

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