According to an in-depth report by Refinery29, more Western women than ever before are ditching their lives and joining the ranks of ISIS. As one expert points out, ISIS’s strategy in appealing to women is not so original. They’ve actually taken a page out of the playbook of what used to be the world’s most dominant terror group, al Qaeda, but ISIS has added a twist. Mia Bloom, a professor at Georgia State University, told Refinery29 that “ISIS has targeted women in ways similar to [the ways] al-Qaeda did before it, in that women are a mainstay of their propaganda and recruitment.” But, she added, “Not only are the women ranked and then awarded to the men based on all kinds of criteria — including eye and skin color — but, after the husbands are killed, they are recirculated in the system … and gifted again.”
A new study conducted in London followed 100 women and girls who were recruited to join ISIS. Researchers tracked their movements on social media and found that the reasons they decide to join ISIS are more complicated than simply wanting to be jihadi brides. Common traits among the women they studied included feeling disaffected, isolated and persecuted in addition to mundane feelings of anger and sadness. Some showed a desire for building a caliphate or being part of a larger sisterhood. The study found that women who are attracted to the idea of joining ISIS come from all sorts of backgrounds. Younger girls, in the 14-16 year age range, are especially targeted on social media. And ISIS has become effective at tailoring its recruitment message to the individual. Successful recruitment of women helps strengthen its recruitment of men to be fighters. “ISIS has commoditized women and uses the lure and promise of marriage to attract thousands of foreign fighters,” Bloom said.
Not all women remain a part of ISIS and some are able to escape, like a 16-year-old Swedish girl who was rescued by Kurdish forces last month. Saja al-Dulaimi, the ex-wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is one who escaped before the extremist group had even coalesced. Despite having been pregnant with his daughter and married to the terror leader for only a few months, she fled and eventually was arrested trying to cross into Lebanon in 2014.
Read the full story at Refinery29.