Skip to main content

Daesh Recruitment. How the Group Attracts Supporters


Title: Daesh Recruitment. How the Group Attracts Supporters

Author: Rafal Zgryziewicz and others

Date of Publication: November 2016

Journal / Publisher: NATO StratCom COE, Riga

Country of publication: NATO, Riga (LAT)

Purpose of the study

Key questions 

What is important from the perspective of Daesh recruitment teams—how do they select target audiences for recruitment propaganda? 

What motivates potential recruits? 

What are the stages of the Daesh recruitment process?



Roughly three hundred Daesh publications of various types, released between January and June of 2016, were analysed for information pertaining to recruitment and radicalization, including fourteen issues of Dabiq, magazine prepared for English speaking audiences. A deductive approach was used in analysing the content of the publication in order to reveal the possible motivations of Daesh supporters. The extrapolated objectives and observable effects of each Daesh product provide the Centre with information that can be used to surmise what attracts people to support the terrorists’ cause.


Since many nations have government personnel and independent institutions working on the recruitment and radicalization problem, the Centre analysed reports and publications from other researchers pertinent to understanding how extremist organizations, such as Daesh, draw prospective recruits into their violent strategy. Moreover, the Centre project officer responsible for this study travelled to a number of seminars and conferences where he had the chance to discuss the most important issues from a strategic communications perspective. Expert subject matter discussions led the author to an understanding of those aspects of Daesh’s communication strategy that focus on recruitment support.

Key findings 

Six main areas of support can be identified from the Daesh communication strategy: 

  1. Thinking about the ‘Caliphate’
  2. Financial support
  3. Providing help for ‘Mujahedeen’ families
  4. Focusing effort on jihadists
  5. Dealing with the media
  6. Committing oneself to the cause 

The skills of its members allow the organization to choose the best audience for each part of their communication strategy. 

The four lines of effort Daesh has been using in its campaign require different demographic sets. Generally, we can differentiate between four main audience groups: foreign and domestic terrorist fighters, westerners, Sunnis, and people of other religions. The groups are further refined to select the most appropriate candidates for achieving specific objectives in a designated area. 

The major advantage of converts for Daesh is their European appearance. This is seen as useful for engagement in Western countries, especially in mono-cultural societies

In some products Daesh specifies the kind of support needed, but the majority of products do not

Key recommendations 

  • Be aware of Daesh’s recruitment strategy.
  • Understand Daesh’s target demographics
  • Build alternative narratives that challenge those messages, which are attractive to susceptible audiences
  • Build awareness among media personnel
  • Use appropriate language
  • Support moderate religious leaders
  • family members play a vital role in countering Daesh recruitment and prevention measures
  • Disrupt the Daesh recruitment support chain
  • Share intelligence

Reviewer's Notes

Report provides information about Daesh’s ‘recruitment support.

The methodology used for this study is based on content analysis. 

Since western countries have begun countering the narratives that attract young people, the Daesh efforts to solicit support have increased greatly.

You might also like: