Women in the Islamic State: Victimization, Support, Collaboration, and Acquiescence

Authors: Charlie Winter, Devorah Margolin


This paper examines the Islamic State’s treatment of, and engagement with, women who lived under its control between 2014 and 2017. Focusing on both ‘in-group’ and ‘out-group’ women, this paper creates a framework for understanding the diverse day-to-day lives of women in the caliphate. This research explores the Islamic State’s implementation of an elaborate theological legislative gendered system of control in Iraq and Syria that sought to penetrate society, regulate social relationships, extract resources from local populations, and appropriate those resources for their own gain. This system of control was a product of the group’s efforts to address a dilemma faced by many ideologically-driven rebel governing actors like the Islamic State – a constant balancing act between the ideology that drives the group in question, and the pragmatic issues that govern the actual application of its ideology. Drawing on hundreds of Islamic State administrative documents, this paper shows the interplay between ideology and pragmatism in the group’s administrative approach, shaping its engagement with both in-group and out-group women to perpetuate its doctrine and entrench its rule.

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Source: George Washington University