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Women recruiters: The “World Changer” in the fight against terrorism

By Obar Mark | March 7th 2015

It has been nearly one and half years since Aqsa Mahmood left her comfortable home in Glasgow, Scotland. Just like any other normal day in Muzaffar’s family, Aqsa gave her father a warm hug as a sign of goodbye. Her last words to the father being, "Khuda hafiz," which means "May God be your guardian," and with those wishes she departed.

The then 19-year-old woman never returned home to date. However, four days later after her disappearance – Aqsa called her parents as she prepared to cross into Syria, at the Turkey border.

While not knowing what awaited her at the ISIS camps, Aqsa had one mission - to pursue and explore violence among Syrian Jihad groups.  

For a long time, the number of women fighters in ISIS and other militia camps had been less significant. In fact, women hardly engaged in tactical fights against any country’s military force. Nonetheless - in the recent past, militia groups like al-Qaida, ISIS, Boko Haram and al Shabaab have discreetly engaged women in the recruitment of foot soldiers from various countries.  

Aqsa Mahmood’s activities have become a perfect case-in-point. After spending several months in the ISIS underworld, Aqsa surfaced on the Social Media platforms while calling for attacks against Western countries.

She started by glorifying bloodshed and ideology of war against perceived enemies of Islam and Muslims. According to United States’ Intelligence Reports on radicalization, it’s believed that Aqsa has since abetted three teenage girls from the United Kingdom to have their way into Syria, where they have since joined the terror groups. 

Investigators believe that Aqsa Mahmood is running a blog that is meant to facilitate the recruitment processes and the movement of young men and women, who would be interested in joining ISIS.

Ever since she left Scotland, it’s understood that Aqsa has been advocating not just to harm citizens of the Western countries but also to have many Western girls marry ISIS jihadists in Syria, Somalia, Northern Nigeria and Iraq.  

Aqsa’s Social platforms have also called for women to walk away from their families and join militia groups as part of their support teams.

Women-factor in changing expression of militia recruitment ideology  

The use of women in the recruitment of militia fighters is a new approach that is likely to turn things upside-down, on fight against terrorism. In a press statement, Aqsa Mahmood’s family regretted why they had to give birth to such a child. "You are a disgrace to your family and the people of Scotland," they said. "Your actions are a perverted and evil distortion of Islam. You are killing your family every day with your actions," they warned. "We are begging you stop if you ever loved us."

It’s no doubt that women’s hand in radicalization cannot be unheeded. Every intelligence report on radicalization of the Kenya youth into jihadism, have made indications that most of the men who join al Shabaab terror group have got wives or girlfriends. It’s also believed that their wives or girlfriends support terror activities within the militia assemblage - even if they can’t directly participate in the terror activities.

June 2014, Kenyan security officers launched serious investigations on the reports that British terror suspect, Samantha Lewthwaite – also known as the “White Window” – had been nearsighted in the country. According to the reports, a woman who was believed to be White Widow had been given police escort while visiting Kenya Army base in Somalia. The so-called Samantha then disappeared after the trip into Somalia.

Previous intelligence reports by FBI show that White Widow is more likely to recruit and manage terror activities in Kenya than many of the top al Shabaab leaders. This is because, African men are a lot more human to woman than men. By giving attention to women, men are a lot more vulnerable than women when it comes to getting recruited into militia groups.

It’s been reported that hundreds of girls as young as 14 to 15 years old are going missing in the west, and only to reappear in Iraq and Syria to bear children for the caliphate. So far, the highest number of female jihadists are in France - that is about 25% of the total.   

Going by ordinary experiences, women are in better positions to change the perception of men as well as alter the course of their ideologies. There is an adage statement in one of the native languages that I speak, that, “Arung dhako ok leng” – which means, “A woman will always hit her target.” Naturally, women have often been used to make men change their minds on given subjects of interest.

More intriguing though, away from the old view of women - against taking important roles in the society, militia groups have found it plausible to use women as shields and as key components of their ethos. The women in militia groups have found it necessary to use Social media platforms to get hold of many young gullible men and woman. They do this by posting photos of themselves in jovial moods, often drinking milkshakes, or writing chatty information with light-heartening messages on Instagram and Twitter.   

But recruitment is not the only work that Women Jihadists are involved in. The women also engage in committing violence against other women as part of all-female brigades’ rituals, which are meant to enforce female morality codes like sex segregation and ensuring modest dress cyphers.

In many of the Jihadists’ controlled areas, women have been used to rheostat checkpoints and conduct home raids – as well as training female suicide bombers. Some of the covered activities include peddling propaganda ideas, training wives, homemakers and organizing fund raising activities.

However, the problem lies in making reports on terror activities around the world. The media prefers to see terror and terrorism though gender spectrums – with Africa and the West being the ultimate wardens of heinous acts against terrorism.

In Kenya though, many parents are still not aware of the fact that their daughters may have a greater influence on terror underworld than their sons. This factor can only serve to endanger the society in a very silent way.    

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