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Rebel Legal Order, Governance and Legitimacy: Examining the Islamic State and the Taliban Insurgency

In this article, Agnes Termeer explores how ISIS and the Taliban have fostered support through their parallel legal systems.

Agnes Termeer
10 July 2023
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While much of the literature on rebel governance focuses on whether, why, and how rebels govern, less attention has been paid to the interaction between the legislative and legitimation efforts of rebel groups. Using a multi-method approach of critical discourse analysis and thematic analysis, this article analyzses ISIS and Taliban publications and academic literature through a twofold typology of legitimacy. It develops a framework of legitimacy claims across the groups that offers insights into rebel legitimation processes in civil war.

 The framework highlights how the Taliban and ISIS have in their normative forms of legitimation discursively constructed their  legal order as transcendent and as grounded in a historical pedigree, fostered by ideas about a legal binary between divine and man-made  systems. The analysis of performative legitimacy illustrates how these groups have used their legal order to signal statehood and to fill a legal vacuum in contexts of civil war. These legitimation processes highlight how these rebels have relied heavily on legal reservoirs to build and appropriate legitimacy, to maintain and enhance this legitimacy, and to ultimately exploit that legitimacy to advance their rule.

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