More Girls and Women Are Joining Violent Groups And Here’s Why

Violent extremists are masterminds at exploiting empathy and giving girls and women a false sense of hope. Over the past five years, an astonishing number of girls and women have joined violent groups. Statistically, the numbers are low and no more than fifty females have tried to join ISIS or offer ideological, material, and financial support. While the number may seem low, it is a sign that the … [Read more...]

Honest Writing Is Daring: Why Write About Violence

The cliche is true. Study something you love to-death and in-depth. Over the years, many people have asked me, "Why do you study violent behavior?" or "Why conflict?" On a lecture tour in Muscat, Oman, I had to tell my audience that studying violence and violent behavior chose me. (By the way, Oman is a beautiful, peaceful Muslim country. You can read more about Oman in my next post.) What you … [Read more...]

The Final Analysis: Why Extremist Women Write

Writing from behind-the-screens, female propagandists are viewed by their followers as credible messengers, speaking out in volumes about life, death, marriage, martyrdom, and more. For the girls and women of ISIS, emerging literature addresses these how-to topics:how to fit in when you come to Raqqa, the ISIS-controlled city in Syria;how to behave with other women;how to act with your new … [Read more...]

Tracing the Literature of Extremist Women: Part III

With the approval and praise of their men, extremist women glorify violent jihad with words, while guarding their gender. Behind a computer screen, women can conceal their identities from everyone else, while reaching the mainstream media and the general public.As anonymous actors, using fake identities, these women may believe they are liberated to write, so long as they remain undetected, … [Read more...]

Tracing the Literature of Extremist Women: Part II

For decades, women have been crafting messages of violence to reach a wider audience. Before social media, extremist women published articles in magazines, newsletters, and pamphlets distributed widely to Muslim-majority communities to persuade, push and urge other men and women to join violent extremism. Today, new social media has made extremist messaging that much easier for these women (and … [Read more...]

Tracing The Literature of Extremist Women: Part I

Terrorism has always been a battle of ideas, reflecting a desire for immediate attention and change in the international world order. Like men, women leave their homes, families and communities to join terrorist organizations, such as The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to support violent extremism. Because of their gender, women assume an auxiliary role within most male-oriented … [Read more...]

An Interview Translation With France’s Most Wanted Woman

An original translation of an interview with Hayat Boumedienne, the wife of Abu Bashir al-Ifriqi, is provided (bel0w). The interview was published in Dar al-Islam, the French-language magazine of the Islamic State, issue no.2. (Note: Abu Bashir's real name is Amedy Coulibaly, the dark-skinned man who attacked a Kosher super market in Paris in  January 2015 and then subsequently shot by French … [Read more...]

Tashfeen Malik, The Female Terrorist We Should Have Known

Every time a woman participates in a terrorist attack, analysts and authorities (and curious journalists) look back. We search for clues, trying to find the 'tipping point' to explain how and when a seemingly normal-looking (girl or) woman turns rogue. In San Bernardino, when Tashfeen Malik gunned down 14 people, the media began to look for new ways to understand female terrorists. Some … [Read more...]

What We Know From Terrorists Who Write

For decades, some terrorists have tapped into their creative charm to spin verse onto paper and the Internet. In the early days, they published their works in traditional paper-or-hardcover books. Today, most terrorists with writing abilities use the Internet to pontificate on the meaning of life and martyrdom as well as proliferate their messages (including the wider narrative of why they must … [Read more...]

Losing Islam: When Female Radicals Join Violent Groups

Bob Shacochis fictional book, set in Haiti and the rumination of death, can easily be used to describe the hundreds of girls and women who joined the Islamic State or ISIS. Did they lose their soul? Or just want to belong to something much bigger than themselves? A cause greater than life, itself? So much of my research over the past 15 years on why (Muslim) women kill or join violent groups has … [Read more...]

The Role of Women in Jihad by Shaykh Al-Rubaysh

Disenchanted and disillusioned, some Muslims turn to violence for belonging. Psychologist Roy Baumeister believes it’s because we have a fundamental drive to form and nurture meaningful interpersonal bonds; thus, the need to belong is human nature. Reading his book, Personal Relationships and Personal Networks, I am reminded that terrorists, including radical women, satisfy this need to connect in … [Read more...]

What Women Want When They Join ISIS

Last month, when three British Muslim girls headed for Syria, the world community was quick to offer a number of possible drivers for terrorism. Among them is that ISIS fighters need girls to establish a utopian-like “perfect family,” a fantasy given the decay and destruction in Syria. Or that ISIS aims to establish an Islamic state, in honor of its name, by granting new female recruits a home, a … [Read more...]

Girls Seeking Marriage to ISIS Fighters Should Know These Four Truths

Girls looking for love on the Internet have a lot to learn about the online community of extremists. There are four fundamental truths that can be valuable for a girl (or woman) before she seeks an ISIS fighter online. First, the relationship may not be real or long-term. A report by the London-based Quilliam Foundation makes it clear that some women are captivated by an imaginary future. “The … [Read more...]

On the Sofa with a Human Bomb (or a Failed Female Suicide Bomber)

She said she didn't want to go through with it. She didn't want to kill. A journalist friend, Anita McNaught, called me hours after Iraqi police captured its youngest female suicide bomber. Her name was Rania. She was forced to wear the suicide belt because her mother ordered her to. She was afraid of disobeying her mother. Anita sounded confident. She was certain the teenage girl had no … [Read more...]

Women Can Help Win the War Against Terrorism

In an earlier post, I examined the role of violent women in terrorism. But identifying the problem is the first step. Equally important are solutions and strategies. In the dark world of terrorism, women can help win the war. When I was in the Counter-Terrorism Center, senior U.S. officials and intelligence officers asked me to offer insights on the mysterious role of radical women in Islamist … [Read more...]

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