There is something about war or violence in general that subliminally invokes the picture of men at the core. It is NOT often that when someone speaks of the same that you will automatically associate it with women. The same applies to terrorism. Traditionally, it has been men taking up arms and fighting for an extremist cause. However, over the years, the narrative has been changing gradually. In the recent three high profile attacks in Kenya, investigators have highlighted the role played by women in terrorist activities.
The most prominent role in women involvement in terrorism is in jihadism. There has been a slew of cases globally showcasing women laying down their lives for extremist groups. These are in essence the perfect weapons, some would argue. Essentially, in a culture that expects women to be the nurturing and maternal force behind humanity, no one would expect that they would willingly participate in the senseless acts to the degree that they engage in jihadism.
However, like most situations, things are never always as they appear. The involvement of women in jihadism can be analyzed from distinct viewpoints. One, we have the unfortunate victims of circumstances that have been forced in those conditions in one way or the other. In most situations, it is through marriage. Somalia’s economy, legal and security institutions all collapsed long ago leaving the locals at the mercy of terror groups like Al Shabaab. This militant group has been accused severally of raiding villages abducting children who they then recruit among their ranks. The lesser highlighted truth is that while young boys are given guns, young girls are forced into marriages and sexual servitude. Further due to the poverty in both the country and its neighbors, others are lured with promises of lucrative opportunities. These women are the ones who eventually end up with a bomb strapped on their body as they have been left with no other alternative.
On the other hand, the romantic adventurism coupled with naivety and a sense of marginalization among the jihadi brides is not the only explanation for women in terrorism. Investigations from the Dusit D2 attack also revealed the grim truth that privileged and educated women could get entangled in terrorism. Although the two women implicated in the attack were not necessarily jihadist, they were among the five attackers showing their central role in the operation.
These women were treated like any other terrorists as evidenced by the on-going search of the two women from the Dusit attack. On the other hand, returnees from jihadist camps have a rehabilitation program designed to address their unique conditions. Here they undergo targeted counselling acculturation and are reintegrated back to society. Even as there is a growing presence of women in terrorism. It should be noted that women are generally doing more for the society in terms of leading the war against terror as statistics show.