At its peak, Islamic State governed over 11 million people in Syria and Iraq in a territory that once exceeded the size of the United Kingdom. Among these millions were an estimated 40,000 international citizens, each of whom travelled to the region to become foreign volunteers in the Islamic State project.
It is estimated that at least 850 women made that journey— around 17 percent of the 5,000+ Europeans that joined Islamic State between 2013 and 2018. The women that went have diverse profiles: from students and professionals to housewives and grandmothers. A significant number took their children with them, while many also fell pregnant in Syria and Iraq.
Western scholarship on Islamic State has primarily focused on the group’s ideology, communications, recruitment, and military operations, and, on occasion, the experiences of its female ‘citizens.’ While useful, these gender-inclusive analyses of the group have tended only to focus on its female migrants, and the roles of wife, widow, or mother that await them. Few enquiries have been made about the experiences of the local Arab women that joined the group.
To understand how and why Islamic State implemented its particularly gendered approach towards governance and warfare, this project is investigating both sides of this equation, examining how the group’s governance affected—and continues to affect—the women, both foreign and local, that lived under its rule.
Shifting the focus away from Islamic State propaganda to women’s first-hand accounts of life in the ‘caliphate,’ it will:
- Embark on a gendered analysis of non- state actor governance, analysing the myriad ‘everyday’ experiences of the various female constituencies that lived under Islamic State rule: Western female migrants, ethnic minorities, and local Sunni Arab women;.
- Conduct primary source interviews with women who fled from the ‘caliphate’ to neighbouring host countries (Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey) and other parts of Iraq, as well as women who were detained for the participation in Islamic State;.
- Develop gender-sensitive accounts of Islamic State’s rule, addressing in particular the issue of silencing and stigmatisation of women’s experiences of war and conflict; and.
- Collect and publish global statistics on women that travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State, as well as figures for women who have returned to their home countries.
Recent Policy Reports
- ICSR Team
ICSR Event – Chronicling the Islamic State: A Photographic PerspectiveRead more
Speakers: Mr Peter van Agtmael, Magnum Photos photographer and collection curator Mr David Kogan OBE,…
- ICSR Team
Charlie Winter’s Address at the United Nations’ Open Meeting on Countering Terrorist NarrativesRead more
Senior Research Fellow Charlie Winter delivered an address at the open meeting of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism…
- ICSR Team
ICSR Events – Martyn Frampton & Stephen Tankel Book LaunchesRead more
ICSR recently celebrated two important book launches, featuring new publications by our associate fellows. To…