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 Depicting Paradise
Islam ascribes sacred qualities to water, which is a prominent component in this image. It is a gift from God,...
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Image of Horse’s Silhouette
The focus of this image is a black silhouette of a horse against an orange background of a horizon. The...
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Image Commemorating Jama‘at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad Fighters
This image was created by or for Jama‘at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (JTJ, or the Society for Monotheism and Jihad), which was...
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Video Capture from “39 ways to serve jihad and mujahidin for the sake of God”
The caption in the image, which reads “39 wasilatan li-khidmat al-jihad wal-mujahidin fi sabil Allah” (“39 ways to serve jihad...
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Image of Hand & Water Droplet
Islam ascribes sacred qualities to water. It is the origin of all life on earth and the substance from which...
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Logo of al-Hasan al-Basri Brigades
The image is the logo of the group Kata’ib al-Hasan al-Basri (al-Hasan al-Basri Brigades).  This group began as an independent...
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Image of Moon with JAMI Logos
The image brings together a number of motifs designed to evoke a strong sense of Islamic identity in the beholder....
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Image Evoking Afterlife
The image illustrates the door/entrance to the afterlife. The moon in the middle of the image plays a pivotal role...
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