Terrorism is a scourge that has been largely associated with men as they are the overall leaders for major terrorist groups operating around the world. In the past, women’s roles in terrorism were limited to supporting their male relatives, educating their children in the ideology, and facilitating terrorist operations. In most conflicts, women have remained an untapped resource thus recruiting women allows terrorist organizations to access an additional 50% of the population. These traditional roles are considered to be more impactful and dangerous as they provide potential future ‘soldiers’ and sycophants to the cause thus keeping the organization alive.
But this is no longer the case as the roles of women have significantly changed due to the progressive targeting of their male counterparts by security officers. This has been prompted by the fact that most women are able to pass by security checks as security officers avoid invasively searching them for fear of outraging the local conservative. This makes women the ideal stealth operatives.
A significant development in women’s participation in global terrorism activities has been the dissemination of radical ideologies online. The Internet has afforded women the opportunity to participate in these activities without compromising their position and earning an inferior status in society. The terrorist organizations have mastered the art of creating an excellent distraction by using attractive women who flaunt their photographs on the social media platforms which attract more following.
The groups enjoy women’s involvement in their activities as female attacks generate greater media attention than those conducted by men. This is especially relevant since media attention is one of the terrorists’ main objectives. This has led to an increase in the number of women suicide bombers.
Just like other people are lured into terrorist groups through different means most women are exploited based on three factors: tribal affiliation, financial pressure, and revenge for the loss of family. This ascertains the ever-changing face of terrorism —and it is now often a woman’s face. We can no longer expect terrorists to look a certain way, be a certain age, or be male.
Following these developments, the counter-terrorism strategies should address both the motivation and the operational capabilities of terrorist organizations. There is therefore an essential need for security forces to expand their capabilities to look more carefully at women.