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The role of Spanish female jihadists in recruitment networks

Published: 25th June 2018 Last updated: 01st May 2019

Press release 25-6-2018 Female jihadists are systematically overlooked in terrorism research. Claudia Carvalho, who received her PhD on 19 June, followed the online radicalization and recruitment process led by Spanish and Moroccan jihadist women. They managed to create networks on Facebook and on other social media, especially targeting other women.

Carvalho calls the Facebook network the ‘online territory of terror’. The women use their own structures of friends and family to build their networks and convince others to engage in violent jihadist activities.

Carvalho looked at the spread of jihadism in Catalonia in particular. She concluded that this Spanish region is a breeding ground for radicalization due to the many Muslims living there and the large number of mosques that preach Salafism. This process is amplified by local jihadi networks and the influence of organized crime.

Carvalho recommends that governments, especially in Catalonia, make sure their legal and social services are thoroughly prepared for the return of foreign fighters of Moroccan and Spanish origin. She also recommends getting local female leaders involved who can act as credible and trustworthy role models from a comparable religious background.

Furthermore, in the post-Caliphate period, the government must do what it can to neutralize the breeding ground that gives rise to Muslims’ worst grievances in the areas of education, discrimination on the labor market, and social exclusion.

Note to the editors

Claudia Carvalho defended her doctoral dissertation on 19 June. Its title: Women Who Run With The Wolves. Online stories and roles of Spanish speaking jihadist women. Supervisors: Prof. H.L. Beck, Prof. W.E.A. van Beek. For further information, please contact press officer Tineke Bennema at or call her on +31 (0)6 19 67 85 21.