Women and the ISIL Phenomenon

In 2017, I wrote an article on women in the Islamic State. It was supposed to be published in an edited volume shortly thereafter, but there were delays. It will be published "very shortly"; it's a bit dated now, but I think it still makes a few contributions to the ongoing discussions about women in the Islamic State: 

  1. Amongst terrorist organizations, ISIL is largely unprecedented in terms of its attraction for women, particularly western women. (although we could probably have a long discussion about availability of data and proportions of membership that could challenge this assertion….) 

  2. To figure out why this is, I look at the barriers to entry for women into terrorist groups (lack of information, lack of social connection into the group, and lack of publicized role for women) and how those were overcome through two primary factors: social media and ISIL communication strategy

  3. I look at the numbers of women who have joined, although these numbers have probably been overtaken by a) events and b) research conduced since I finished writing the paper

  4. I also summarize research findings about what motivated women to travel to join the Islamic State (hint: a wide variety of push and pull factors are involved in their radicalization and their decision to mobilize and join a terrorist organization) 

  5. I look at the different roles held by women in ISIL, and contrast that with the roles advertised in propaganda. 

  6. This article also incorporates some of my initial analysis and thinking on how to describe women and girls’ agency in their decisions to join the Islamic State. I include a preliminary spectrum of agency and victimization. 

  7. I also noted the “case of the missing female bomber”, something that has, again, largely been overtaken by events; we have seen some female suicide attacks, but no where near as many as I would have expected. 

Jessica DavisComment