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.

Image Commemorating Abu Sa‘id al-Qurtasha’i
The image depicts the face of a deceased warrior, affiliated with the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB, or Mezhdunarodnaya Mirotvorcheskaya...
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Image of Mosque with Quranic Quotation
The caption reads: “bi-smi Allahi al-rahman al-rahim—(Q 9:111) inna Allah ishtara min al-mu’minin anfusahum wa-amwalahum bi-anna lahum al-janna, yuqatiluna fi...
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Image of Sunset & Palmtrees
The caption reads: “min nakhil al-iraq wa-tahta sama’ihi tunadi: hayya ‘ala al-jihad” (“from Iraq’s palm tree and under its skies,...
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Image Commemorating ‘Umar Hadid
The image combines several elements to reflect notions of religious legitimacy, purity, martyrdom and a continued violent struggle. First, there...
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Image of Scale & JAMI Logo
While the color red typically carries a sense of ambivalence in the Islamic tradition, in this image, the red clearly...
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Islamic Media Center Banner
The image is dominated by the fifteen slogans that appear alongside the (double) figure clad in white — all are...
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Image of UBL & Ayman al-Zawahiri
The image features the figures of Usama bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri, appearing to be standing in deep waters, over...
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Image Evoking Paradise
The image represents two symbols: on the left, a picture of a young man, superimposed on a green fauna background,...
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