Dr. Nelly Lahoud

Empowerment or subjugation: an analysis of ISIL’s gendered messaging

UN Women


This study explores how ISIL, a group that explicitly espouses a worldview that promotes womens's subjugation and sexual slavery could appeal to and seemingly offer women tools of empowerment. It analyses the gendered messaging of ISIL through a systematic examination of the group’s Arabic (al-Naba’), English (Dabiq and Rumiyah) and French (Dar al-Islam and Rumiyah) magazines that were produced and posted online from their inception until February 2017, a period that covers ISIL’s governance during both its territorial ascent and descent. The analysis shows how the group integrated questions of gender and masculinity into its governance of both the public and private spheres. 

Although by 2017 ISIL had lost its territorial base, the group continues to mount operations in and outside the Levant; and the threat that ISIL and other violent groups pose to the security of the international community remains potent. Therefore, the findings of the paper aim to inform and influence the debates surrounding prevention and alternative messaging strategies, as well as initiatives for a more efficient and effective response to these challenges.