The female Chechen suicide bombers known as the “black widows” have been able to terrorize Russia over the past decade, and the image of these women taking part in the Moscow Theatre siege and the Beslan School Hostage crisis live long in the memory. These images returned to us following the suicide attacks that took place last Monday.
The information that has leaked out about those responsible for the Moscow Metro bombing remains scarce, and the images of the two women – one of whom was under 18 years old – are not sufficient for us to draw a picture of the two women who killed dozens of innocent people on a cold Moscow morning.
As is customary during times of crisis and shocking news, people from across the world turned to the internet in search of answers on this attack, and the internet revealed a torrent of news footage and images taken by ordinary citizens and journalists who witnessed the attacks, all of which were quickly uploaded on websites like Twitter and YouTube.
However despite the bloodshed, the distressing images, and the tears that have been shed for the victims of the Moscow bombings, the security tremor that struck Moscow was an opportunity for us to recognize how little we know about these women. None of the pictures taken from afar of the two dead bodies truly reveal anything about them. Should we be content with what some investigators said with regards to one of the two women having beautiful long hair and an attractive face? Does this help in discovering what pushed her to perpetrate this terrible deed?
The media did not exert any effort to investigate and uncover the truth behind the Beslan School Hostage crisis or the Moscow Theatre siege, and today no effort is being made to reveal more about these two Chechen women who carried out the Moscow Metro attack.
The media is still unable to inform us of the identities of these two Black Widows, and in the end the only thing that we know is that they are widows or relatives of Chechen fighters who were killed or tortured by Russian forces, and that the term
“Black Widow” is a reference to the deadly spider of the same name. But what are the social conditions that push a widow, or a woman, or a young girl, to choose such a fate?
Such questions are also applicable to the female suicide bombers that targeted the Iraqi city of Baquba.
To date, there is no sufficient information available to help us understand the phenomenon of female suicide bombing in Iraq, which reached its peak in 2008. We know Al Qaeda’s opinion on this, and we are aware of the division inside the Al Qaeda organization, which was an issue ignited by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, when he ordered the first female suicide bombing in Iraq.
However most importantly, we don’t know the opinion of the female suicide bombers themselves.
The media has managed to get close to male suicide bombers, and learn their life stories and opinions, not to mention the experiences of those male suicide bombers whose attacks ended in failure. However this is something that does not apply to female suicide bombers, except for a few Palestinians who carried out attacks between 2002 and 2004.
The issue is not limited to a lack of investigation by the news media, but also the difficulty of tracing the lives of women in eastern societies, as they still occupy a subordinate position [in these societies], and being implicated in suicide attacks may further weaken their position.