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Al Qaeda’s Faceless Female Killers | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Iraqi Sajida al Rishawi was destined to fail in her attempt to blow herself up in the suicide operation she was ordered to carry out in a hotel in Amman, Jordan in 2005. Deployed by Al-Qaeda, Sajida’s failure to execute the mission is what made it possible for us to see her face and hear her voice as she confessed during her trial.

As for the rest of the Iraqi female suicide bombers, who have become one of Al-Qaeda’s most dangerous weapon in Iraq; they remain faceless and nameless and we lack information and details relating to them.

Last week [Monday 28 June], four Iraqi female suicide bombers carried out a bloody attack that ended in the death of scores of people. However, al Qaeda, like any other extremist movement, involves many contradictions, especially in matters relating to women – even if they are suicide bombers.

Women’s growing role within the movement; the fact that they have resolved to die for Al-Qaeda, does not necessarily mean that their status has been elevated. They will always be overshadowed by their male counterparts and will continue to rank lower than the men whose photographs and video footage, recorded before they set off on their mission to detonate themselves and kill innocent people, is disseminated.

Since its inception, Al-Qaeda organization used to promote its leaders and elements through videos and recordings, the most prominent of which was a [24-minute] video produced by Al-Qaeda that bore the ‘Hollywoodized’ title ‘The Shadow of Swords’. The film calls on Muslim youth to wage war against the disbelievers and shows a number of operations carried out in North Africa with voiceovers from Osama Bin Laden and second-in-command, Ayman Al Zawahiri who calls for the liberation of Al-Andalus. Disregarding the organization’s political messages relating to its activity in North Africa; the video doesn’t offer anything new.

In all of Al-Qaeda’s visual or audio productions, only males are present while the females are visually excluded from the picture that the movement presents of itself. Some men receive training while others are seen saying their last words and the beards of elderly leaders change from dark to grey – but still, no women. Women leave no trace despite the fact that for the past two years they have been employed as Al-Qaeda’s most deadly killing tools.

Undoubtedly, a woman’s motives to commit suicide and kill the innocent are different from a man’s. The men who become combatants are fully aware of the manhood connotations that come with it, however the women’s decision has to do with weakness, failure and disappointment and it is something towards which she is reluctantly driven. This is what may be concluded from the stories of Sajida al Rishawi and her Belgian precedent Muriel Degauque, who was recruited by Al-Qaeda to execute an operation in Iraq in 2005.

Al-Qaeda’s exploitation of women as recruits is a reluctant development that took place due to tactical reasons related to difficulties that the men have begun to face. And yet, the women’s acceptance of that role does not mean that they are granted the distinction that the men enjoy; there is no name, picture, video footage or celebration in return for their decision.

This doesn’t mean that I advocate the rights of female suicide bombers; this is simply a comparison between the two genders to highlight the paradox behind concealing the women’s identities and faces.

It as though she is faced with a double curse; first she is dispatched off to die then her identity suffers the same fate as her body after the explosion.