The women of ISIS

Mia Bloom and Charlie Winter write: Reactions to the (mis)reported claim that Hasna Aït Boulahcen — who was killed in a police raid in Saint Denis a few days after the Paris attacks that killed 130 — was France’s first female suicide bomber prompted fierce discussion about the role women play in ISIL. Now Sally Jones — a mother of two and widow of a British ISIL fighter — has announced her intention to blow herself up in Syria. Has ISIL joined the long list of jihadi groups using female suicide bombers?

DNA evidence corrected the mistake — Boulahcen was killed when the person standing next to her detonated a suicide vest — and the Zura treatise (which documents the group’s position on female suicide bombers and was circulated by ISIL supporters in the summer) does not yet allow for women to carry out martyrdom operations. Still, it is worth exploring the role women play in terrorism.

Their participation isn’t anything new. Women were already bound up in terrorist schemes in the 19th century as part of the Russian anarchist movement Norodnaya Volya (“People’s Will”), and involved in assassination attempts against the Czar. Several women became well-known terrorists in the 1960s and 1970s, as members of a variety of groups, ranging from the Baader-Meinhof Group and the Red Brigades to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. [Continue reading…]

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