From jihad-making to state-building
: understanding governance by Salafi-Jihadist insurgent groups

  • Marta Furlan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Following the Arab Spring revolts that took place in 2011, an unprecedented number of Salafi-Jihadist insurgents conquered territories and established systems of rule thereupon. However, the scholarly literature has devoted comparatively little attention to the phenomenon. Proceeding from the identification of this lacuna, in this work I propose to study governance by Salafi-Jihadist groups. More specifically, my research aims are the following: assess how Salafi-Jihadists govern, illuminate the relationship between Salafi-Jihadist ideology and Salafi-Jihadist governance, and determine the extent to which Salafi-Jihadist governance is distinct from non-Salafi-Jihadist forms of rebel rule. To reach the proposed aims, I develop a multi-dimensional typology of rebel governance and I apply it to the study of three Salafi-Jihadist groups: the Islamic State, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. I conduct the case studies by means of referring to a combination of primary sources and secondary sources. Drawing from the three case studies, I argue that a single model of Salafi-Jihadist rule does not exist. Nonetheless, I identify some important similarities between the three groups in their approach to governance, such as the discrimination towards non-Sunni, non-Muslims, and women; the combination of coercive and persuasive measures to obtain compliance; the adoption of formal structures and practices of rule; and the preference for a hierarchical organisational structure. Significantly, the models of governance implemented by the three groups appear to be influenced in important ways by their Salafi-Jihadist ideology. At the same time, however, some of the features of Salafi-Jihadist governance are unaccounted for by doctrine and are rather explained by non-ideological factors. Extending the observation beyond Salafi-Jihadist groups and building comparisons with ideologically different insurgents, I also argue that the Salafi-Jihadist models of governance display some distinctive features vis-à-vis the model of governance most commonly employed by non-Salafi-Jihadist rebel rulers.
Date of Award14 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorHenning Tamm (Supervisor) & Bruce Robert Hoffman (Supervisor)


  • Rebel governance
  • Salafi-Jihadism
  • Civil wars
  • Armed groups
  • Syria
  • Iraq
  • Yemen

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 17 April 2027

Cite this