Female Terrorism and Militancy: Agency, Utility, and Organization

Female Terrorism and Militancy: Agency, Utility, and Organization

Female Terrorism and Militancy: Agency, Utility, and Organization

Female Terrorism and Militancy: Agency, Utility, and Organization

Synopsis

This edited volume provides a window on the many forces that structure and shape why women and girls participate in terrorism and militancy, as well as on how states have come to view, treat, and strategize against them.

Females who carry out terrorist acts have historically been seen as mounting a challenge to the social order by violating conventional notions of gender and power, and their participation in such acts has tended to be viewed as being either as a passive victim or a feminist warrior. This volume seeks to move beyond these portrayals, to examine some of the structuring conditions that play a part in a girl or woman's decision to commit violence. Amidst the contextual factors informing her involvement, the volume seeks also to explore the political agency of the female terrorist or militant. Several of the articles are based on research where authors had direct contact with female terrorists or militants who committed acts of political violence, or with witnesses to such acts.

Excerpt

Cindy D. Ness

In the fall of 2004, I was given the generous opportunity by Bruce Hoffman to guest edit a volume of the journal Studies in Conflict in Terrorism. The volume was intended as a scholarly consideration of the participation of women and girls in terrorist and militant groups. In the broadest sense, it was meant to provide a window on the many forces that structure and shape why women and girls participate in terrorism, as well as on how states have come to view, treat, and strategize against them. Until that time, there had only been one scholarly book written on the subject – Women and Terrorism (1996) by Neuberger and Tiziana – published nearly a decade earlier. The book examined the motivations of Italian female terrorists of the 1970s, including how they understood their actions in retrospect. While thoughtful and informative, the volume could in no way claim to do justice to the subject as a whole given its narrow focus. The few full-length general works on the topic, written by journalists (i.e., Morgan, 1989; McDonald, 1991), were even more dated. While achieving some popular acclaim, these accounts were neither driven by data nor did they provide a critical level of analysis.

For all intents and purposes, the female terrorist had not been treated as a legitimate subject for serious inquiry before Wafa Idris, the Palestinian Red Crescent paramedic, blew herself up on Jaffa Road in downtown Jerusalem on January 27, 2002. This was the case, even though several of the most active left-wing terrorist groups of the 1960s and 1970s, ones central to ushering in the era of modern terrorism, were co-created or co-led by women – Ulrike Meinhof of the Bader–Meinhof group, Leila Khalid and Fusako Shigenobu of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Adriana Faranda of the Red Brigades held leadership positions in their respective organizations. A quick look at major Western newspapers following Idris’ attack might have left one thinking that Idris was the world’s first female suicide bomber, despite the fact that Sana’a Mouhadly, a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), had earned that distinction in 1985. Mouhadly detonated an explosive-laden vehicle, which in addition to killing her, killed two Israeli soldiers and injured two others. Over the next few years, females carried out four more of the 12 suicide missions undertaken by the SSNP aimed at pushing Israeli troops out of Southern Lebanon.

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