A new form of ISIS propaganda is emerging on social media showing glimpses of women and children attempting to live normal, free lives under the caliphate. The pictures and videos posted on Twitter even idealize everyday life within ISIS, a sharp contrast to the horrific accounts of sex slavery, arranged marriage and subjugation that have emerged from women in the past. Is this a new recruiting strategy used by the extremist group to lure more women into its world?
According to the The Independent, a group of women covered head to toe in burkas are seen brandishing Kalashnikovs while another group poses in front of a swanky BMW. These images seem to convey a sense of power, assertiveness and co-equality, which is usually associated with their male counterparts or militant husbands. An image obtained via Twitter, also shows a woman practicing with a gun, in what she calls a preparation to defend her religion from unbelievers.
There are also images of women walking around and pushing children in a stroller, and photos of them enjoying quality time with their partners, which are in contrast to to reports of them being restricted within the confines of ISIS controlled territory. Women are posting images images of savory food, the beautiful landscape and their pets.
A woman has also posted an image of herself purportedly enjoying a bus ride.
Most analysts and researchers find this to be the most dangerous propaganda yet and say that this it’s being used to build a picture of ISIS’s overarching message and goal–achieving a state and way of life, rather than just being a jihadist group on a rampage. It’s also a ploy for Western women to be seduced by materialistic possessions, something that would be harder for them to renounce if they decided to join the fight with ISIS.
Separately, there are also pictures of ISIS fighters enjoying some ‘boy time’ by a swimming pool in Raqqa, where they are without their usual black uniform or weapons and seem to be spending a typical day relaxing.
All this information is strikingly different from the usual videos and stories emerging from ISIS–gruesome beheadings, training young children how to use assault rifles or bargaining about the price of minorities and jihadi brides.
The photos of women languishing amongst the alleged comforts and safe haven of ISIS territory is also a complete reversal from the translated Al-Khansaa Brigade’s 10,000 word manifesto released in February, which outlined the strict, sedentary and ultra-conservative role of women as stay-at-home wives, mothers or widows. The document also criticized the concept of gender equality as it outlined the realities of life within the caliphate–lack of food, electricity and bombs at close proximity, to state a few.