ISIS Violates Ideology on Female Militancy
17 Nov 2016
Contrary to ISIS' ideology, women undertook militant activity for the group throughout the quarter. This extract from the latest Global Extremism Monitor quarterly examines how ISIS has deployed female recruits.
This is an extract from the Global Extremism Monitor quarterly. Click here for the full report.
ISIS in Syria and Iraq has clearly stated that the role of women is in the home. Women are required to clean, cook, support their husbands, and bring up the next generation of jihadis. Unless under attack, women are not allowed to take up arms.
However, for ISIS affiliates in places like Libya, Nigeria, and France, a different picture has emerged this quarter. Contrary to ISIS' ideology, women took part in militant activity – ranging from plotting tactics to committing suicide attacks – for ISIS affiliates in these countries.
In August, the Monitor recorded instances of women fighting for ISIS in Libya for the first time. The group used female suicide bombers in its efforts to hold onto Sirte, ISIS former stronghold in the north African state. In Nigeria, ISIS affiliate Boko Haram regularly uses female suicide bombers, and this continued during the quarter. On 4 July, Nigerian troops averted an attack by three women wearing suicide vests.
In early September, French authorities uncovered the first all-women ISIS cell as the purported leader of the group, Ornella Gilligman, was arrested. Interestingly, al-Qaeda released a statement in its magazine Inspire in September, shortly after those arrests telling men to keep women away from terrorist attacks, and specifically to stop them from taking part in operations in France. The fact that al-Qaeda felt the need to issue a clarification on the subject suggests it is aware of the growing trend. It would seem the group wants to set the record straight before too many women leave the house for the battlefield, while trying to position itself as the jihadi brand that truly upholds Salafi-jihadi ideology.
The Monitor recorded mentions of female Islamist militant recruits elsewhere, too. In Bangladesh, authorities arrested women from Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh or Jamaat-e-Islami, including those advising and training women-only units.
As ISIS comes under increased pressure and attack, causing it to be on the backfoot militarily, we will see how far it stands by the rules and regulations of its own extremist ideology. Although the use of women in combat is explicitly forbidden, will female militants take a more active role? If extremist groups such as these begin to subvert their ideology in order to survive, and win, this could be an opening for challenging the hateful narrative with which they justify violence and attract recruits.