How Islamists Brainwash Female Suicide Bombers

Boko Haram is able to do it with kidnapped girls, but it's been a feature of Islamic terrorism all along.

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | April 8, 2016

As War on the Rocks points out today, there is a hot debate about the role of women in violent extremism.  Against those who argue that there is nothing to be gained by thinking about women differently than men, there is substantial evidence that women are brought into violent extremism in unique ways.  This is especially true in Islamist movements.

The New York Times today has an article on the ways in which Boko Haram instructs female captives to become suicide bombers and Islamist killers.  At least 105 women under their control have detonated themselves in attacks on everything from markets to refugee camps.  Last month, a pair of female suicide bombers conducted a coordinated attack on morning prayers.  The first woman detonated herself inside, but the second waited until a people fleeing formed a mob outside.  Going amongst them, she blew herself up among the survivors of the first bomb.

Boko Haram, which has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State (ISIS), is especially successful at brainwashing its captives.  Girls kidnapped from families are subject to rape and torture, which breaks down their sense of self and pride.  Then imams among the organization tell them they brought the shame upon themselves by not adhering to what is described as the beauty of radical Islam.  Suicide bombing is a path to heaven.  Many of these young women choose it, trading the shame and pain for an escape and a promise of a glorious afterlife.

Female suicide bombers are not a new phenomenon.  The first known female suicide bomber was deployed against an Israeli convoy in 1985.  Russian security services have stated that the majority of the suicide bombers they encounter are female, although the number seems to be around a quarter worldwide.  The Russians describe it as a method of disposing of expensive-to-care-for widows and orphans of deceased Islamist fighters.  It is also a way of disposing of women who have been raped too often to be married off again.

Rape is something many female suicide bombers have in common. Considered spoiled goods and unmarriageable in their patriarchal cultures, they view becoming human bombs as a form of purification by fire. Dhanu, Prime Minister Gandhi’s assassin, was also allegedly raped by soldiers from the Indian Peacekeeping Force when it was posted in Sri Lanka for three years.

There is also a Muslim Brotherhood connection.  Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood, is the one who issued the most prominent fatwa legalizing the use of women as bombs.  He issued a ruling that legalized suicide bombings in 2001, which Hamas — originally ‘the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood’ — cites as its authority for its own campaign.  In 2003, he issued a follow-up ruling legalizing the use of women in this way.  Al Qaeda’s propaganda magazine al’Khansaa picked up the narrative the next year, spreading the ideal of women as martyrs for jihad worldwide.

As Washington Post reporter Mia Bloom notes, in traditional Islamic cultures women bombers create a dilemma for security services.  If security services do not aggressively search women, these bombers can pass easily by checkpoints.  If they do, the regular and repeated violation of norms of female privacy enrage the local population and make recruiting easier for the radicals.

Between the brainwashing and the sharia ideology’s promise of heaven, women suicide bombers are here to stay.  It may seem perverse that women could be kidnapped from their society only to be returned as bombs, but it is a feature of the enemy’s way of war.



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