In June 2014, the spokesperson for what was then known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, declared that the group had met the requirements to establish the caliphate. The group’s name consequently changed to the Islamic State. With this announcement, al-Adnani not only called for the pledging of loyalty to the new state, but extended an invitation to come and live in it.
Days later, the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, made a special plea to a wide range of professionals, from doctors to engineers, to join the state as well. What quickly became clear was that this call to come, targeted as it may have been to attract certain individuals and skillsets, was having a broader impact than ever may have been intended—the recruitment and travel of female respondents to the Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria. To further encourage travel to the conflict zone, the group created a campaign to facilitate this process, complete with how-to manuals to help would-be travelers, daily logs illustrating the lives of females in the caliphate, and training documents to help prospective citizens understand how to cook, handle weapons, and perform other tasks.
Beyond understanding what steps the Islamic State was undertaking to increase the number of females traveling into its territory, researchers also began to examine the demographics of this group of females. This task was made difficult by the fact that robust sources of data on these female travelers was not available. However, within the confines of that limitation, these early research efforts highlighted a variety of factors that explained the decision of females to travel to the conflict zone, ranging from a desire to contribute to the caliphate to a desire to find companionship with like-minded individuals to outright coercion by family members and acquaintances.