Militant Imagery Project

The use of propaganda and imagery by terrorist groups has long been an understudied dimension of the broader field of political violence. This project explores the use of imagery and visual themes by militant groups, focusing largely on jihadist media production. Jihadist organizations and individuals inspired by their message are prolific producers and distributors of visual propaganda, and their efforts have expanded exponentially online. However, these images frequently utilize themes which can be inscrutable to those not familiar with the sub-culture. It is our hope that this project will provide academics, practitioners, and students with a basic contextual understanding of the ideas these images convey before they turn to the larger questions of why they are employed, how they work, and what responses they may elicit.

The First Edition of this project was completed in 2006. The second phase (2010-2013) included indexing the project’s initial images, expanding and incorporating new images, and putting all of the images online in a searchable format. Particular attention was given to groups who use images to further financial, material, and ideological support for violence. The imagery dataset provides not just a textual analysis, but also full translation, if texts are part of the image, and a search engine for those interested in specific visual motifs. While by no means an exhaustive list, we feel it provides a sample of the most influential and prominent images and themes. We hope it will serve as a useful tool for practitioners, academics and the general public. Contingent upon funding and interest, we hope to update the dataset to highlight visual themes of additional militant groups in the future.

Book Cover by Yusuf al-‘As al-Tawil
The image is a book cover written by Yusuf al-‘As al-Tawil and entitled “al-hamla al-salibiyya ‘ala al-‘alam al-islami wal-‘alam: dirasat...
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Image Commemorating ‘Abdallah Yusuf ‘Azzam
The image celebrates the influential Palestinian Sunni Islamic scholar, ‘Abdallah Yusuf ‘Azzam, who called for jihad to help the Afghan...
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Elif Media Caravan 2 Announcement
The image is propaganda material from Alif or Elif Media, the Islamic Jihad Union media company. It illustrates a few...
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Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) of Uzbekistan Video Capture
The image, which was posted to a web forum on 10 October 2008, portrays the training of young children, recruited...
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al-Shabab Video Capture
In the image appear top officials of the al-Shabab group, including Muktar Robow, Sheikh Hasan Dahir ‘Aweys, Shaykh Abd al-Qadir...
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AQI Video Release
While participating in jihad gives a jihadist important religious credibility, death in battle provides immortality, as the deceased is ranked...
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Image Commemorating ” `Azam al-Muhajir” & “Abu Mujahid”
The image includes several commonly used jihadi visual motifs in an image commemorating two jihadist fighters: “`Azam al-Muhajir” and “Abu Mujahid.”  ...
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Al-Furqan Video Release (Series of Martyr Biographies)
The text in the image reads (from top to bottom): “mu’assasat al-furqan lil-intaj al-i‘lami tuqaddim al-isdar al-mar’iyy al-ra’i‘—hida’/huda’ al-shuhada’ 2...
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