Project Timeline: 2017-2022

Project Budget: $900,000

Principal Investigators: Vera Mironova and Sam Whitt


  • In December 2018 400 ISIS victims were surveyed in Mosul
  • In January 2019, 200 members of ISIS families were surveyed in camps around Mosul (Qayyarah Jad’ah, Hamam Al Alil, and Salamyiah)
  • In April-May 2019 civilians in Mosul and Baghdad were surveyed
  • In December 2019 protesters in Baghdad were surveyed


“The Challenge of Foreign Fighters: Repatriating and Prosecuting ISIS Detainees,” report for Middle East Institute, 27 January 2021

“What Foreign Islamic State Women Think About Guilt and Responsibility,” report for Lawfare, 19 August 2020

Iraq’s Broken Justice System for Islamic State Fighters,” report for Lawfare, 25 July 2020

Report based on results of survey of ISIS family members and ISIS victims in Mosul Rule of Law in Post ISIS Mosul

Policy report based on results of a survey of ISIS family members of ISIS victims in Mosul Justice in Iraq

Report based on the survey of Civilians in Mosul and Baghdad

Report based on the survey of Peaceful Protesters in Baghdad

Academic Papers

Child is Father of the Man? Retribution or Reintegration of ISIS Youth in Mosul, Iraq

Online Supplementary Appendix

What should be done with insurgent youth, from adolescent fighters to very young children? Using original survey data, we examine public opinion regarding adolescent/child soldiers and young children in the Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul Iraq. Focusing retrospectively, we inquire about retributive punishment for minors who fought and worked for the Islamic State relative to adults. We find that punishment preferences toward minors are conditional on their participation in violence, beliefs about the determinants of adulthood and the role of agency versus coercion in the recruitment process. Thinking prospectively, we find the public divided between fear about the dangers posed by radicalized children of insurgency and hope for rehabilitation and reintegration. Our results raise concerns about detrimental effects of retributive justice and social stigma on the well-being of insurgent youth and children both now and later into adulthood.  

Gender and Public Accountability for Political Violence: The Case of Female Members of the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq 

Online Supplementary Appendix

To what extent do publics hold gendered views of justice and accountability for political violence? We consider the compelling case of female supporters of the Islamic State in Mosul Iraq. Following the liberation of Mosul by Iraqi Armed Forces in 2017, thousands of women and their families were detained on suspicion of having supported the Islamic State, which ruled over Mosul between 2014-2017. However, under Iraqi law, women who supported ISIS, married ISIS fighters, and worked in administrative positions under ISIS are not held accountable in Iraqi criminal or counterterrorism courts. While a great deal of attention has been spent on bringing ISIS leaders and fighters to justice in Iraq, little attention has been paid to the role of women in the movement. In a December 2018 survey, we inquire about public perceptions of female accountability for supporting ISIS. We randomly sampled 400 Mosul residents on their views of rule of law and punishment preferences for female ISIS supporters. In contrast to prevailing patriarchal norms underlying Iraqi law, publics in Mosul see ISIS women as agents of their own free will, and consider them radical, dangerous, critical to the functioning of ISIS organization, and instrumental in supporting ISIS fighters. In contrast, they reject patriarchal explanations that women in ISIS were just showing obedience to their husbands and male leadership. In experimental survey vignettes, we also find that residents of Mosul mete out punishments to female ISIS supporters comparable to male counterparts, and do not distinguish strongly between those women who worked for ISIS and those who married ISIS fighters and leaders. Our findings run counter to prevailing patriarchal norms governing accountability under Iraqi law and conventional views on female agency and gendered norms of justice in the Middle East.

Accountability and Due Process Under Transitional Justice: Evidence from Mosul, Iraq

Online Supplementary Appendix

How important are due process norms to holding groups accountable for political violence? In this study, we examine public perception of justice and fairness in criminal proceedings brought against suspected Islamic State (ISIS) fighters and supporters in Mosul, Iraq. When the Iraqi Armed Forces recaptured Mosul in 2017, they detained thousands of suspected ISIS fighters and supporters, who are now standing trial in Iraqi criminal and counter-terrorism courts for their role in the 2014-2017 ISIS occupation of Mosul. In December 23-30, 2018, we conducted a survey of a random sample of 400 residents of Mosul to understand public perceptions of the rule of law with respect to those accused of supporting ISIS. Using experimental survey vignettes, we find that, despite strong punishment preferences for ISIS leaders and followers, subjects are also sensitive to basic norms of fairness and due process to include: access to legal representation, the right to speak in one’s defense, the credibility of witnesses, and the impartiality of judges. Subjects are also deeply concerned about corruption in the legal system in general, even as it applies to ISIS captives. Overall, we find that Iraqis in Mosul have a more nuanced appreciation of the rule of law, even as it relates to adversaries, than conventional wisdom might dictate and can see value in establishing a legal system that transcends grievances and desires for revenge and retribution.  

Public Tolerance of Retributive Violence Against Insurgencies

Online Supplementary Appendix

How tolerant are civilians of retributive violence against insurgents? We pose this question in the case of suspected Islamic State militants in Mosul Iraq. Using survey vignette experiments, we inquire about public tolerance for judicial as well as extrajudicial violence against insurgent combatants. We sample among ordinary civilians in Mosul who lived under Islamic State rule as well as ISIS-affiliated families in IDP camps outside Mosul. We find that Mosul civilians are more tolerant of capital punishment and extrajudicial killing of insurgent combatants than ISIS- affiliates, but more for reasons of security than revenge. In contrast, Mosul civilians are more likely to oppose the killing of insurgents if they believe such actions are counterproductive to long-term security goals. This tension speaks to the security dilemma surrounding retributive as well as strategic violence against insurgencies. Instead, the public interest may be better served through nonviolent strategies, to include negotiations with insurgent forces.