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The Islamic State’s Pattern of Sexual Violence: Ideology and Institutions, Policies and Practices - 12 May 2021

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Chair: Christine Cheng, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, King's College London

Speakers: Mara Redlich Revkin, National Security Law Fellow, Georgetown University Law Center

Elisabeth Jean Wood, Crosby Professor of the Human Environment and Professor of Political Science, International and Area Studies, Yale University.


The Islamic State (IS), which controlled significant territory in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2017, engaged in a wide repertoire of violence against civilians living in these areas. Despite extensive media coverage and scholarly attention, the determinants of this pattern of violence remain poorly understood.

Mara and Elisabeth argue that, contrary to a widespread assumption that the IS wielded violence indiscriminately, it systematically targeted different social groups with distinct forms of violence, including sexual violence. Their theory focuses on ideology, suggesting it is a necessary element of explanations of patterns of violence on the part of many armed actors.

Mara and Elisabeth find support for their theory in the case of sexual violence by IS by triangulating between several types of qualitative data: official documents; social media data generated by individuals in or near IS-controlled areas; interviews with Syrians and Iraqis who have knowledge of the organisation’s policies including victims of violence and former IS combatants; and secondary sources including local Arabic-language newspapers



Mara Redlich Revkin is the National Security Law Fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center. She is a political scientist and legal scholar specialising in empirical research on armed conflict, political violence, migration, peacebuilding, and transitional justice with a regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa.

Mara Revkin
Mara Redlich Revkin

Elisabeth Jean Wood is the Crosby Professor of the Human Environment and Professor of Political Science, International and Area Studies at Yale University. Her work focuses on political violence, particularly conflict-related sexual violence during civil war, and its legacies.

Elisabeth Wood
Elisabeth Jean Wood

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Christine  Cheng

Christine Cheng

Senior Lecturer in International Relations

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Event details

12 May 2021

Online event