By: Mohamed Abdel Ghaffar
The use of female elements by terrorist organizations has stirred controversy. This is contrary to the legendary vision of the organization set up by Abdullah Azzam and followed by his disciple Osama bin Laden, who rejects women’s participation in jihadist acts and restricts their role on the domestic and household matters.
However, the difficulty of confrontations and the vicissitudes of the events faced by terrorist organizations in various parts of the world led them to change that vision, to integrate women into jihadist activities and to carry out terrorist operations, especially in defensive situations.
Chechen incursions to integrate women into jihadist operations:
The Black Widows, is the first group affiliated to the islamist streams that use women in its terrorist operations. It is a Chechen group that began operations on June 7, 2000. Khava Barayeva and Luisa Magomadova drove a truck full of explosives to the Russian special forces headquarters in the village of Alkhan Yurt in Chechnya, killing two and injuring five. Since then, women in Chechnya have carried out 81% of terrorist operations (22 out of 27 operations carried out by women). Out of the 110 bomb attacks, 47 were carried out by women, accounting for 43% of the operations.
Women in Al-Qaeda organization :
Abdullah Yousuf Azzam, the leader of the Jihad in Afghanistan and the godfather of Osama bin Laden, believes that the role of women lies in housework rather than jihadism. Which is reflected in his message to them, in which he warned them of luxury as he considers it as the enemy of jihad and a damage to the human soul. Luxuries, with the education of children Jihad, roughness, masculinity and heroism. He preached the women to be satisfied with the necessities and to keep themselves away from the luxuries.
The role of women in al-Qaeda’s branches differed. Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda branch in Afghanistan was based on his teacher’s views, seeing women as having only a social and family role. Bin Laden did not address any jihadist women’s actions in his speeches.
However, the other branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has contradicted Azzam’s vision of women as a jihadist. He has enlisted women in terrorist and suicide operations since 2005 and has made a big leap in recruiting women inside the organization.
Al-Qaeda has published several audio recordings promoting the process of recruiting women into jihadist operations because of what they described as “men’s shackles,”. The recordings including the one of Mona Saleh al-Sharqawi through the website of “Voice of the Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula”, where she advised women not to wait for men to support the religion of God because it is imposed on men and women.
This appears in the case of Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, who moved from Iraq to the Jordanian capital of Amman to blow herself up with her husband at a wedding party at the Radisson SAS in 2005. But she failed in her mission, while her husband succeeded in detonating himself, which killed 38 people, before she was being arrested. The organization sought to exchange her with a Japanese prisoner in 2015 and with the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh in the same year. And she was executed in response to the killing of Kassasbeh.
Daesh and women:
After the killing of Zarqawi in 2006, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi took over the leadership of the organization before he was killed in 2010. The organization witnessed dozens of jihadis joining his ranks. Where the Um Salamah Battalion, formed in mid-2008, carried out operations in Diyala and Baghdad.
With the death of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, Ibrahim Awad al-Badri, known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, assumed the leadership of al-Qaeda in Iraq. And with the emergence of the so-called “Arab spring revolutions” and the emergence of the organization’s branch in Syria under the name “Gabhet El Nosra”, Baghdadi announced the conversion of the name of al-Qaeda in the branch of Iraq to the organization of the Islamic state «Daesh».
Daesh believes that women can play the same jihadist role as men. The organization has issued numerous appeals to women in different countries around the world to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq.
Which is a continuation of the same approach to al-Qaeda in the Iraqi branch in dealing with women, where Alkhansa battalion continued within the organization, Daesh also cares about the role of women fighting alongside their domestic role, especially in periods of weakness. Baghdadi was not enthusiastic about the idea of women’s jihad in the first, but with the decline of the organization’s strength he allowed them to intervene more.
According to a study by the King’s College International Center for the Study of Extremism, women are increasingly involved in conflict zones around the world. The study notes that adult women account for 11.4 percent of all foreign fighters in the ranks of the Islamic state, with 4,761 women out of 41,490. While minor women representing 11.1% at 4,640, between April 2013 and June 2018.
It seems clear that the Islamic state organization «Daesh», did not stop at the extent of attracting women from within the state that it is fighting in, but it worked on the global level of its call for women polarization and it succeeded in attracting hundreds of them from different countries of the world.
The Islamic state managed to recruit four women in France, but the French authorities managed to arrest them in September 2016, before traveling to Syria, according to French Attorney General François Moyens. They were placed on the list of terrorist threats. The husband of the third defendant is accused of carrying out a terrorist operation in June of the same year that killed two police officers.
In September 2016, the organization ordered dozens of women to carry out suicide attacks against government forces as a final attempt to defend the city of Mosul, capital of the Islamic State of Iraq, in order to cover the lack of personnel within the organization.
In September 2016, a Syrian commander of the Islamic state ordered a group of five French women to carry out a terrorist operation in central Paris by detonating bombs, but the attempt failed.
The organization published a video in February of 2018, showing the female fighters in the organization in the first ranks alongside the male fighters, during their battle along the Euphrates River, this video is the first of its kind in this regard.
Houthis and women:
The Houthis are an armed religious movement established by Badr al-Din al-Houthi. The movement was founded in 1992, and they take the Zaydi sect as a religious reference.
The organization fought 6 wars against the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former Yemeni president, between 2004 and 2010, before the relationship between them became a friendship after the Yemeni uprising or the so-called “Yemeni youth revolution”, began its events on January 27, 2011.
The Houthis worked to exploit the economic, military and social conditions in Yemen especially in the period following the Yemeni uprising. In 2014, they began to control the regions and strongholds of influence in northern Yemen. They continued their expansionist operations until they managed to control Sana’a, before they announce the dissolution of the state’s institutions.
Which prompted President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the current Yemeni president, to submit a request to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the purpose of military intervention and the formation of an Arab coalition to confront the Huthis organization supported by Iran.
With the expansion of military operations by the Huthis organization, and the strikes directed at the organization by the Yemeni Popular Resistance Forces and the Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia, the Huthis were forced to rely on recruiting women to participate in terrorist operations carried out by the organization against the Yemeni people, Yemeni territory.
With a direct order from «Abdul Malik al-Huthi» the movement of Ansar Allah «Houthis» establish the Zinbiyat battalion , the military arm of the organization. They formed the battalion before the fall of the Yemeni capital Sana’a, specifically in September 2014 in the city of Saada. Women inside the battalion wear normal clothes away from military uniforms, with veils on their faces, which is widespread in Yemen.
The Houthis rely on the Zinbiyat to maintain security, extend the regime within the Yemeni cities, and suppress the anti-organized demonstrations inside Yemeni territory. This behavior has caused discontent among the Yemeni people, who rely mainly on the tribal system. So the fact that women have started carrying out military operations increased the public anger towards the movement of Ansar Allah.
In 2014, the Zinbiyat took control of areas under the control of the Houthis in Saada city, north of Yemen, after they were left by the organization trying to take control of the Yemeni capital Sana’a and assigned them the task of maintaining security in those areas. This is considered the first operation that the Houthi Women’s Organization carried out.
On March 21, 2018, the Zinbiyat attacked activists from the Popular Congress Party in front of the house of Ali Abdullah Saleh. Where they gathered to demand the extradition of his body for burial on the anniversary of his birthday, and they beat the Assistant Secretary-General of the General People’s Congress.
Boko Haram and women Jihad
The Boko Haram organization emerged in 2002 as a religious group under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed Yousef. It entered into violent clashes with the security services in Nigeria from 2002 to 2009. 2009 was a crucial year for the organization. It declared its uprising against the state during the period of the government of President Omar Musa Yar Udi. The security forces faced this uprising by force, followed by the killing of its founder, Mohammed Yousef, which sparked the anger of members of the organization.
Boko Haram’s organization cooperated with the “Islamic State Organization” significantly, contributing to its announcement of Boko Haram’s pledge to Daesh and changing its name to the “West African Islamic State”. The organization also announced its succession in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin in August 2014 .
In its war against the countries of the Lake Chad basin, the Boko Haram organization adopted a female organization called the Black Widows. Members of the organization appeared to have been influenced by the activities of the Black Widows in Chechnya during the war with Russia. They decided to repeat the name again in Nigeria.
The organization of the “black widows” consists of a group of widows of terrorist organization leaders, women who are influenced by organizational ideology and are working to blow themselves up in densely populated areas or are used by the organization to transport explosives because they are not inspected at security points.
Boko Haram began to use young girls in terrorist operations in July 2014, when a suicide bomber was sent to the barracks of Battalion 301 of the Nigerian Army in Combe State. The girl hid an explosive charge she had placed under her hijab, resulting in her death and the death of a soldier.
In May of 2017, three women suicide bombers carried out a suicide attack with explosive belts, killing two people. The organization continues to use women in its terrorist suicide attacks, especially those carried out in mosques.
It is clear that terrorist organizations have resorted to the increasing use of women in terrorist operations over time. Some organizations, such as Boko Haram, have become dependent on women for most of their operations because they have strategic advantages that allow them to carry out such operations.