Regardless of how chauvinistic a totalitarian theocracy can be toward women, they cannot live without them because of women’s obvious role in reproduction and the domestic support they provide for a family as wives and mothers. Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS), also uses women to propagate their cause in the social media and as law enforcers, who are responsible for searching other women and making sure that they abide by the rules of dress and conduct. The tactics they have been using to recruit women are as sophisticated as those used by any other organized criminal group, and they are tailored to the culture of the target group in a way that utilizes their weaknesses and increases the false allure of life under Daesh rule.
Unfortunately, the rise of Islamophobia has been manipulated by terrorists to gain more recruits from the West. The bigotry and extremism of some people in the West are fanning the flames of extremism among some Muslims, especially those who were born and raised in Western countries. According to a report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a surprising number of Western women are traveling to Syria and Iraq to join Daesh. The reasons include: “feeling isolated within a Western culture, feeling that the international Muslim community as a whole is being violently persecuted,” and feeling “an anger, sadness and/or frustration over a perceived lack of international action in response to this persecution.” Sadly, these women sometimes are unknowingly just jumping out of the frying pan into the fire facing a much worse reality once they join Daesh.
While Muslim women in the West are being wooed by the promise of love, family and “empowerment” where they can play vital roles starting from the family unit to running the state, Arab women are promised a “utopia” where they would lead a “sedentary” life raising their children in a true “Islamic” state next to their “righteous” husbands. However, the concealed reality of women who live under Daesh rule is described by Dr. Phyllis Chesler, professor emerita of psychology and women’s studies at the College of Staten Island, who said that they “may find [themselves] passed from one Holy Warrior to the other with absolutely no say in the matter.” This situation occurs when a woman’s husband is killed and she is married off to another after the mourning period. This is apart from being subjected to domestic abuse, the marriage of girls as young as nine years old, honor killing, stoning, female genital mutilation and the continuous pregnancies to increase their population under crude conditions. This horrific life only describes the conditions of the “high-status” Sunni women, while there are not enough words for now to describe the dire circumstances under which the enslaved Yazidi women live.
Daesh’s recruitment of women will continue because in addition to women’s indispensable role in families, they serve as bait for recruiting men in several ways. The most obvious way is that the presence of available and “affordable” women attracts men even in such a repressive and strictly segregated society, especially those men who cannot afford marriage in their own countries. Moreover, according to Mia Bloom, the author of Bombshell: Women and Terrorism, these groups also use women to motivate men to join them by provoking their sense of shame because what could be more insulting to a man’s masculinity than finding women, who are deemed to be the weaker sex, joining a militant group while men are hiding in the safety of their homes.
Regardless of the reasons for joining terrorist groups, which are many, nothing justifies the slaughtering of innocent people, and women should be held accountable just as men are in this situation. However, one important factor needs to be taken into consideration, which is that some of these women are teenage girls who have been deceived and have fallen prey to what can be considered to be human trafficking. Ashley Binetti argues in a publication of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security that female recruits who fit the definition of human trafficking should be treated in the same way as victims of human trafficking are. The UN protocol of human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or fraud, deception, the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation.” The exploitation could be sexual, slavery or servitude. It applies even to those who consent to the actions if they were under 18 years of age or were threatened, forced, coerced, abducted or consented under fraud or deception.
Increasing awareness regarding the gruesome life women are living under Daesh is essential to expose the reality, especially to teenage girls who can easily be deceived. Also, Islamophobia needs to be addressed and contained because it only creates a greater division between Muslims and the rest of the world and in some instances could be one of the strongest incentives especially for Western Muslims to join Daesh.
By Nawar Fakhry Ezzi
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