There are 10 main motives behind the trend of Western women searching for jihad and joining violent extremist groups associated with ISIS and al-Qaeda, according to a study by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism published Tuesday.
The study was based on research interviews with 101 women returning from ISIS and dissidents from the terrorist organization.
According to some estimates, of the total 41,490 who traveled to the “Islamic State”, 13% (4,761) were women and approximately 17% (7,366) returned home, with women constituting only 4% of those who returned.
Many people wonder how violent extremist groups like ISIS, which are known for their anti-women ideology and mistreatment of women, could record such high numbers of Western women in their ranks.
The study found a set of motives that lead women to join such extremist groups, most of which are related to the nature of women, the nature of their society, and their ambition.
Motives can be summarized in:
1 – True Belief: Some women believe that the terrorist group represents the true Islam and they seek to help build a caliphate. This type of woman is also often tired of conflicting social demands put upon her by her family and subgroup to live purely, while the mainstream marginalizes and discriminates against her for expressing her Muslim identity.
2 – Vengeance: Anger over geopolitics, discrimination and marginalization makes some women believe the group can address these issues and will change the world for the better. Terrorist rhetoric and graphic images from conflict zones convince her of injustice, so she is angered enough to take action by joining the group and seeking revenge for death, harm, arrest, torture, loss of land or resources, or other grievances.
3 – Belonging: Seeking to belong to a group for love, sisterhood, protection and fellowship tempts some women to join terrorist groups.
4 – Adventure: Women looking for fun, romance and adventure, sexual and otherwise, may also be tempted to join. This type of woman follows men who display heroism and masculinity, and the organization seduces them with descriptions and promises of glory and honor as the wives of jihadists while living in the ideal state.
5 – Romance: Some women follow their hearts into the group, falling in love or being seduced into loving.
6 – Materialism: Material rewards, such as a salary, better housing and a better life, also tempt some women to join these groups.
7 – Submissiveness: Some women want to adhere to traditional roles, thus obeying the husband, brother or father and following them into violent extremism. Additionally, some are coerced by blackmail, rape or dependency.
8 – Escape: Real-life problems can cause some women to run off and join terrorist groups, seeking independence and a way out of sometimes abusive or oppressive conditions at home.
9 – Redemption: Past sins or debauchery may lead some women to seek redemption and the “pure life” the extremist group offers, even going so far as to seek martyrdom. Women who previously led a “criminal” life will often continue in their crime, but now on behalf of the group.
10 – Identity: Some women are looking to gain an identity, be significant and have a purpose in life.
The study says that ISIS has skillfully tricked both men and women into its ranks, although “women often look more naïve in their hopes and dreams of joining ISIS.”