International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

The Role of Women in Militant Groups

The world is very familiar with the brutality and ruthlessness that ISIS reserves for enemies and non-believers. Groups like ISIS and Boko Haram are able to recruit new members using methods of medieval cruelty through current technology. Men have very clear roles in their organizations. Unclear are the roles and recruitment of women. Unlike al Qaeda, ISIS prioritizes the establishment of caliphate and a society. Integral to this creation is the presence of women. While jihadi chiefs have a clear strategy for dealing with male enemy (kill them), women victims are often captured and forced to join the organization to build the caliphate. Often women are sent to slave warehouses and lined up and displayed for ISIS fighters to choose among them; the woman’s future either marriage or sex slavery. Human Rights Watch found “a system of organized rape and sexual assault, sexual slavery, and forced marriage by ISIS forces,” which is considered war crimes and potentially crimes against humanity. These methods are ISIS’ way of actively building social structures, but unfortunately for the women, many of whom have seen horrors, these social structures are the future of a society not worth living in.

Unfortunately with the existence of ISIS, there will be the existence of abuse of women because of the values that ISIS holds. The only way to protect these women will be to end ISIS, a difficult feat.

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2 responses to “The Role of Women in Militant Groups

  1. swashington April 27, 2015 at 10:48 am

    I think that one interesting part of this aspect of ISIS is the way that they’ve used sexual violence. In many of the situations we’ve talked about in class, sexual violence has been utilized as a way to reach military or political goals by harming a certain population or as a way to perpetrate genocide ( as in the case of Rwanda). Contrary to these situations, ISIS seems to be using sexual violence as a form of coercion to add to their own population, not destroy or harm their enemy’s population (although they are doing that too). It will be interesting to see how the international community chooses to deal with this case of conflict-related sexual violence as part of a larger campaign against ISIS, or if it chooses to focus on this aspect of ISIS at all. Because they are integrating the victims into their organization, the process of rescuing and treating the victims could become more complicated the longer they are a part of the organization.

  2. zbest2015 April 30, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Most often, media reports on the role of women in militant groups focus on the use of sexual violence as a weapon, as well as women being violently objectified and forced into “marriage” with militants. Although the degradation of women by militant groups remains a pervasive problems, particularly within the past two decades, the relation between women and militant groups has expanded and is arguably becoming redefined.

    In a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed entitled “Terror’s Invisible Women,” Karla Cunningham details the increasingly active and tangible role that women are starting to play in militant groups. Part of the reason that women are assuming greater roles within terrorist groups is out of sheer necessity: counter-insurgency initiatives have wiped out many young adult males, which has effectively decimated the recruiting options for militants, leaving them no choice but to turn to women to help carry out operations. The influx of female militants — particularly as suicide bombers — has proven to be highly successful. Muslim women’s traditional dress, as well as the role the typically occupy in society, has caused many of their targets to underestimate them. A Sri Lankan terrorist group, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, killed the Indian Prime Minister using a female suicide bomber; a male bomber likely would have not been able to get as close.

    Women have also shown a genuine interest and willingness to participate in terror attacks. Many younger female fighters welcome the opportunity to leave the confines of their home and participate in the jihad; they view war as a means of fulfilling their desire for political, personal, and spiritual fulfillment. The centrality of religion in many of these cultures further enables women to leave their homes and join the jihad, as their parents are sometimes reluctant to explicitly forbid them from fighting in the name of religion.

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