A simple definition for a suicide bomber is someone that blows up herself with an intention of killing or injuring other people. The activity is a great threat to the international peace. The practice of suicide bombing epitomizes the violence of irrationality. For many years, suicide bombing has been looked at as men affairs but in the recent years, women participation in the act has been on the increase. The attacks carried out by women happen to be more lethal than those carried out by men. This paper addresses the issue of women participation, the motive for their engagement and the purpose for the employment by most terror groups.
The participation of women in the suicide bombing is evident throughout the world, especially in the larger Islamic fraternity. As Brunner (2014) explains, this is a group of martyrs that have committed to risking their lives to death for the course that they believe in. The issue of women participation leaves a lot to be desired. What makes it, even more, interesting is the fact that this category of women are usually brought up in the societies where the culture dictate that women are strictly mothers with specific roles and presented as very submissive creatures. Men are tasked with the duties of protecting and providing for them as dictated in the Holy Quran. Their involvement in suicide bombing thus erodes their traditional roles of caring and nurturing members of the society. Further to that, in Quran, there are no many clear promises for the women that carry out such suicide bombing.
One is left with the question of why women support and engage in such brutal activities that are more associated with men. That is not an easy question to answer and rather one can ask another question on how these women suicide bombers come about. According to Salimi (2014), suicide bombers are not born but made. The environment shapes them to such levels of terrorists. There are some pull factors that can be attributed to this. The most important of these are Religion, nationalism, and the womens honor culture.
In my opinion, religion has the greatest take in this. The religion in question here being Islam. The radicalization of the society has been a major concern for the global community with many terror groups devising new ways of attacks. Over a half of these inhumane activities are majorly religious motivated. According to Speckhard (2008), most scholars are of the opinion that Islamic fundamentalism with its view of jihad and martyrdom play a central role in motivating participation in such acts. These people believe that their God not only approves what they do but also demand that they do so. These women believe that engaging in the suicide bombing is very sacred, and they do that with the hope for the future peace and reward in the afterlife. When attacking, most of these female bombers come in pairs with men pretending to be a couple going out on a date so as to avoid any form of suspicion.
The purposes of the employment of women by terror groups are very diverse. As Yarchi (2014) observes, the recent participation of women has boosted the terrorist groups and terrorism activities in a big way. There has been a change of trend in the way that these terrorists undertake their activities. Instead of making hard target that is the military, they have been using the soft target that is the civilians. This is where women bombers come in. Women are preferred because of strategic reasons. There are most suitable for concealing explosives. When an explosive device is planted in a womans midsection, it becomes less suspected. Security forces are less likely to think that an expectant woman can carry a bomb.
According to a Brunner (2014), the woman in traditional cloth can be able to conceal more than twelve pounds of explosives on her body. The society has a form of stereotype that looks at a woman as one that has inherent peacefulness. Most of the highly dreaded terrorist organizations like Al Shabaab and Boko Haram have been using this tactic for their attacks. There are some cases in Iraqi and Afghanistan terror attack where men have disguised themselves as women so as to filtrate some of the well-guarded police stations. What makes this most workable is the fact that in most of these communities, invasive body physical searches is seen to be the threat to a womans honor and embarrassing. What makes this worse is the idea of some women terrorists hiding some of these explosives in some intimate body parts.
Most of these women participate in these acts because the great reward that they look up to in the afterlife. Even without the benefit of the 72 virgins that are reserved for the male suicide bombers, female bombers believe in sharing in some of the rewards in paradise once has successfully undertaken suicide bombing against the enemy. Most importantly is the forgiveness of sin. The person thus is saved from the suffering seen in the grave and spends the eternity in paradise with the horror of judgment being taken away. In addition to that, there is also a promise that such individuals will reserve seventy positions for the members their families in paradise. Most Islamic scholars argue that paradise will make these women beautiful, without jealousy and happy. Others will get elevated to the point of becoming the chief virgins among the 72 heavenly virgins for the previous earthly husbands. (Gronnvoll and McCauliff,2013)
Even without a promise of many things but just landing in paradise, women in Islamic societies engage in suicide acting to run away from the oppression they go through. This remains a religious motive as it is pegged on the fact that suicide bombing seems acceptable way to paradise. It is worth mentioning that Al Qaeda holds a record of recruiting women with a great promise of decent jobs in paradise.
The community in these cases happens to be patriarchal, treating women as less important as compared to men. They are normally on the losing end of the society, with no room to speak for themselves. While men enjoy control, power, education, and authority, women most noble role is to give birth as soon and as much as possible. These women thus look forward to the afterlife with great enthusiasm with the most suitable channel being suicide bombing against the enemy. This increases the frequency of female suicide bombing, especially in the Middle East. Women in these places, therefore, prefer being Israelis prisoners where they are permitted to take degrees, exercise some freedom of association and have room to develop themselves. (Brunner, 2014).
According to Gronnvoll and McCauliff (2013), besides the aim of defeating any suspicion, there are many purposes for which terror groups recruit women. One fundamental purpose is the fact that women participation relay a very serious and powerful political message. Any attack carried out by women normally attracts wider media coverage. These scholars outline another critical aim that I agree with. The terror group uses women in these acts so as to undermine women so as to despise the concept of equality as upheld and supported by the western powers. Equality in these communities is looked as ungodly and condemned in the highest terms possible. Any woman that tries to advocate such beliefs in Islamic society even risk their lives and going to paradise. Men are very supreme in these societies.
In conclusion, the cases of female suicide bombing can be said to be on the increase. There are adverse reasons for which women engage in these activities. The issue of nationality, resentment and defying the great oppression they go through in the hands of men are some of the reasons. Religion is the greatest of all. It catalyzes the engagement as it gives justification and promises paradise for these women if they successfully carry out the suicide bombing. Nearly all terror groups are aware of the effectiveness of women in suicide terrorism. Their act comes with huge political implications and wider media coverage. The terrorists find it a big win when their attacks make the headline in the world. The security agents rarely suspect women. It also serves to undermine the concept of equality as advocated for by the western powers.
Yarchi, M. (2014). The effect of female suicide attacks on foreign media framing of conflicts: The case of the palestinian-israeli conflict. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 37(8), 674-688.
Gronnvoll, M., & McCauliff, K. (2013). Bodies that shatter: A rhetoric of exteriors, the abject, and female suicide bombers in the "war on terrorism". Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 43(4), 335-354.
Salimi, R. (2014). The female bomber's body in performance. New Theatre Quarterly, 30(1), 51-64.
Brunner, C. (2014). Occidentalism meets the female suicide bomber: A critical reflection on recent terrorism debates; A review essay. Signs, 40(1).
Speckhard, A. (2008). The emergence of female suicide terrorists. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism [H.W.Wilson - SSA], 31(11), 995.
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