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ISIS Invests in its Women | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A growing number of women are joining the ranks of the ISIS terror group. (AFP)

Cairo – The recruitment of women to join the ranks of the ISIS group has drawn the attention of observers, who have sought to understand what appeals these women to become part of the most barbaric terrorist organization in recent years.

Experts told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Women join ISIS to challenge the stereotypical image of the weak Muslim woman, who stays in her husband’s home to raise the children.”

“They want this image to change into one of women who carry weapons and are capable of carrying out the most brutal killings,” they explained.

International and regional reports revealed that women are more receptive of ISIS’s rhetoric of incitement that it posts on various electronic platforms. In fact, ISIS has resorted to women in order to address the drop in the number of its fighters.

Around a third of the members of the terror group are now women, who have started to receive military training and have become the organization’s choice to continue its dream of establishing the so-called “caliphate.”

A report released by Spain’s Elcano Royal Institute revealed that a growing number of women are joining ISIS, saying that around 500 females have been recruited in the past two years.

Women play a major role in terrorism and it is expanding, sparking concerns among experts that they may take on a more active role in the future, said the Spanish think-tank.

The majority of female members of ISIS have a European nationality and have converted to Islam. Their ages range between 19 to 23, continued the report.

It said that a female cell that was uncovered in the Spanish city of Cueta relied on the internet in carrying out its operations. Moreover, all of the women sampled in the report received takfiri teachings that persuaded them to join terror groups.

The report credited the internet with facilitating the access the women had to extremist ideology and to social networks dedicated to recruiting them for the “caliphate project”.

On the reason why several European women join ISIS, Dr. Khaled al-Zaafarani, expert on Islamist activity, said: “These women seek to atone for their sins and the loud life that they led.”

Others are also drawn to the idea of going on an adventure and fighting the so-called infidel, according to the ISIS propaganda, he explained.

Observers noted that ISIS sees women as easier targets than men for recruitment. The women can be persuaded to join the group in order to escape the hardships of their daily life.

Dr. Ilham Mohammed Chahine, an ideology and philosophy professor at al-Azhar University, said that women are lured to ISIS through social media outlets and the internet, through other women who are part of the organization and through false images of the safe and secure life they will have if they become part of the group.

In 2014, ISIS had opened the door for women to join its ranks. The recruits become members of the “al-Khansaa” and “Umm al-Rihan” brigades. Potential members had to be between the ages of 18 and 25. They would receive a monthly salary of 25,000 Syrian liras (50 dollars) in exchange for dedicating their entire time for working for the organization.

“Al-Khansaa” operates as the morality police of the terror group. Members of the group pride themselves for being responsible for raising religious awareness among women and punishing those who do not adhere to “Sharia” law.

The “Umm al-Rihan” brigade is responsible for teaching women about Islam and monitoring their commitment to its laws.

Chahine explained that female ISIS members are divided into three roles. Some are used for breeding and housework. These women are usually prisoners of war. Some are used for providing civic education. The third role women play is jihad. These women wield weapons and are volunteers from all parts of the world.

Faced with the growing threat of female terrorists, Dr. Mohammed Leila, a teaching assistant at al-Azhar University, stressed that women should be protected “by having their place in society recognized.”

“Their misconceptions should be corrected and they should be educated to protect them from extremist thought,” he added.