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 UBL
The image contains a number of familiar elements in jihadi imagery: a picture of Usama bin Ladin against a blue...
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Image Celebrating Attacks of 9/11
Jihadi propaganda often marks important jihadi operations/violent events in order to establish these events as key milestones that shape the...
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Image of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir
The figure in the image is Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, co-founder and spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah. The horse and rider...
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Image of Shamil Basayev
On the left of this image is the deceased leader of Riyad al-Salihin group, Shamil Basayev (also known as Abdallah...
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Image Explaining “ibtisamat al-shahid”
The image was posted on a message board to start a discussion on the popular topic of “ibtisamat al-shahid” (“a...
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TTP Video Capture
The image is from a video produced by Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) entitled “jahim al-murtaddin fi swat” (“Apostates’ Hell in...
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Image of ‘Ali ‘Umar al-Tanani
The deceased in this picture is a man by the name ‘Ali ‘Umar al-Tanani, who was killed on 13 January...
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Image of Dome of the Rock and Martyr
The image is a signature .gif file that was preceded by the caption (in translation): “O God, have mercy on...
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