Syria has been afflicted by a civil war for a little more than a decade, with the hostilities still ongoing to this very day. What started in 2011 as but one link in the chain of Arab Spring protests, in this particular case out of disaffection towards the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, has escalated to a multisided conflict which shows no promise of ending any time soon. As a result of the civil strife which permeated the country, Syria ended up being the perfect breeding ground for several jihadist elements to rise and establish themselves as major non-state actors of the conflict. Most prominently among these elements belong the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, who have managed to expand their presence as the rightful bannermen of jihad sectarian conflict throughout vast expanses of territory within, but not exclusively to, Syria. The objective of this research is to analyze the discourse that both these groups use in their publications in order to explain and justify the reasoning behind their strategies of targeting Syria’s religious groups. Additionally, a comparison is conducted to discover how the two groups’ rhetoric coincides and differs. The main findings show that the two groups both use two distinct forms of targetive discourse. One that justifies the targeting of specific religious communities and groups based on specific reasons, and one which is based on a more exclusionary tactic of enemizing anyone who does not conform to the groups’ strict interpretations of Islam. However, the two groups differ in the level of depth that their discourse goes into when providing this reasoning of targeting. Furthermore, the two groups do not refrain from slandering and discrediting each other in their publications, in order to legitimize themselves as the rightly guided Muslims waging jihad against the enemies of Islam.

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Dr. Dick Douwes
Global History and International Relations
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Theodotos Nikola. (2022, August 17). Sectarianization and Jihad in the Syrian Conflict: A Comparative Discourse Analysis of the Relations and Interactions of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra towards the Shia and Alawite Communities of Syria. Global History and International Relations. Retrieved from