Western women who join Islamic State militants are driven by the same ideological passion as many male recruits and should be seen as potentially dangerous cheerleaders, not victims, experts said. A new study out on Wednesday said the estimated 550 women who have travelled to Iraq and Syria are expected to marry, keep house and bear children.
Despite being banned from fighting, the study found they were active propagandists for the cause. “The violent language and dedication to the cause is as strong as we find in some of the men,” said extremism expert Ross Frenett of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, who coauthored the new report. “The worry is that as ISIS (the IS group) loses ground, as everyone hopes it does, that more and more of these women will transfer from the domestic world they’re in now to a more violent one,” he told AFP.
Much has been written about young women going to become “jihadist brides”, but the prevailing narrative of wide-eyed recruits drawn by a sense of excitement belies the importance of their own faith and passions.
Although Frenett and co are monitoring a slew of female jihadists on social media, and there are a plenty- they chose only 12 women living in Syria and Iraq to focus on. They are from the U.K., Canada, France and the Netherlands.
Some of the women endorsed the bloody beheadings carried out by the militants — “I wish I did” it, one said after US journalist Steven Sotloff was killed — as well as railing against Western governments and the suffering of Muslims. “My best friend is my grenade ... It’s an American one too. May Allah allow me to kill their Kanzeer [pig] soldiers with their own weapons,” one said. Crucially, the women also provide advice and encouragement to other women thinking of joining. “They’re actively recruiting women and providing them with assistance advice and referrals to go to ISIS-held territory,” said Frenett.
So, better beware when those women claim they have had enough of ISIS and want to go home.