Female Suicide Bombers

Fascinating (and disturbing) article by Farhana Ali in the Middle East Times (h/t Antiwar.com) on her study of woman suicide bombers.

Read the whole thing. But some key passages:

But data provided by U.S. military commanders in Iraq reveals certain characteristics. A preliminary assessment made by one officer suggests that a certain kind of woman is vulnerable to active recruitment by al-Qaida and other insurgents. According this officer’s assessment, would-be female bombers are young (ages 18 to 25), childless widows, who are deemed unable to “succeed in society.”

The statement highlights al-Qaida’s advantages in seeking female suicide bombers, and all are related to a woman’s ability to use deceit and disguise.

And what drives them to such anger/desperation? (usually the loss of a son or husband):

In most press accounts, women choose suicide terrorism to avenge the loss of their nation, family members, or individual honor.

In interviews I’ve conducted with Iraqi women, the loss of a son – an Iraqi mother’s prized possession – is enough to drive a woman to suicide. The need to protect one’s children or future generations of children is consistent with statements made by Muslim women in other conflicts and organizations, including in the Palestinian territories and within secular, nationalist movements.

The article also outlines how many such grieving women are also usually supported by local militias and become part of their social outreach program (such constituency was key to Hamas electoral victory in Palestine).

Update I:  Related piece by Lindsey O’Rourke in the NyTimes.  LOR is a doctoral student at UChicago studying female suicide bombers.

Her conclusions:

More than 85 percent of female suicide terrorists since 1981 committed their attacks on behalf of secular organizations; many grew up in Christian and Hindu families…For one, 95 percent of female suicide attacks occurred within the context of a military campaign against foreign occupying forces, suggesting that, at a macro level, the main strategic logic is to create or maintain territorial sovereignty for their ethnic group. Correspondingly, the primary individual motivation for both male and female suicide bombers is a deep loyalty to their communities combined with a variety of personal grievances against enemy forces.

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Published in: on August 7, 2008 at 12:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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