In certain guerrilla and terrorist groups such as the Tupamaros in Uruguay, the Montoneros in Argentina, and some of the Japanese groups, women act as collectors of intelligence, taking part in operations as couriers, nurses and medical personnel, and maintaining safe houses for weapons, funds and supplies.
Leftist groups tend to be an exception, sometimes having female leaders; Leila Khaled and Fusako Shigenobu were leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Japanese Red Army respectively; Norma Aristoto was co-founder of the Montoneros in Argentina; Genoveve Tarat played a key role in ETA and Margerite Cagol in the Italian Red Brigades.
Most female terrorists act in a supportive capacity. They play a useful role because several women living together is perceived as more usual than a group of men. Posing as wives and mothers, female terrorists can enter areas where males cannot go. In the early 1970s women formed a third of the operational personnel of the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany, and have taken part in robberies, burglaries and kidnappings.
Unmarried women terrorists are the rule except in the Tupamaros. Women usually work in a familiar or specific area, with many having an urban background. There is a general lowering of the entry age into operational activity, and some women have been operationally trained and undertake operational leadership roles. Many women have the nomadic lifestyle of the groups and have a desire for action and money.
Women in armed struggle become totally interchangeable with their male comrades in arms. In the revolutionary world, women and men are identical in all their functions to the point of losing or renouncing even their own function as mothers. In the context of subversion, women appear to be forced to renounce their femininity to transform themselves into non-conformist beings. For many women armed subversion was seen as an adventure (Valentini and Neuberger, 1996).
To many women terrorists all individuality in armed bands disappears; one becomes the struggle, the objective, the function and the signal. Women in an armed struggle, arguably lose contact with 'everyday woman' as a result of their militancy. Some women terrorists have argued that they fight
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Publication information: Book title: Dictionary of Terrorism. Edition: 2nd. Contributors: John Richard Thackrah - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 300.
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