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What drives women to become terrorists

Last updated on: January 10, 2014 13:25 IST

Recruiting women works for the terror groups, as in most cases it is found that a woman draws less suspicion from security agencies. But the bigger advantage is that women terrorists have been found to get the job done nine out of 10 times, reports Vicky Nanjappa.

Terrorist outfits have often deployed women to carry out strikes, as the female of the species is considered to be extremely lethal due to their dispassionate attitude towards their own lives that they display at the time of an attack.

Naturally, the question remains: what really drives a woman to becoming a terrorist? Studies conducted by Americans, Israelis and also Indians offer a clue. In the case of Dhanu, who blew herself up to kill former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, it was to avenge her brother who was killed by the Indian Army’s military operation in Sri Lanka.

Anat Berko from Israel, an authority on terrorism, says in her research that many Palestinian women terrorists have quoted sex in paradise as a factor in becoming a fidayeen.

In India, an officer with the Intelligence Bureau says that while studying the various recruitment drives undertaken by terrorist groups, sex has been found to be one of the major factors.

According to Anat Berko, the cultural attitude towards women often influences them. Worldwide there are strict rules governing the behaviour of women, which become a useful tool for brainwashing them.

The IB officer says the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Al Qaeda use the same concept as the Hamas did in Palestine. There are a dedicated set of handlers who go about recruiting women. If a woman is considered to be of ‘bad character’, she is likely to be recruited as it is easier to play on her sense of guilt and the condemnation by society. What they are very often told is that they have sinned and if they carry out a terror strike, they would be washed of those sins.

The officer also pointed out that while the concept of sex in the afterlife is often used in other parts of the world to bring in both men and women, the most common factors that have been found in the subcontinent are poverty and deprivation. Women who have lost their husbands and find it extremely difficult to make two ends meet are targeted the most in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are also cases where women who feel very strongly towards the cause, those who have lost their near and dear ones in counter-terror operations, have been recruited as terrorists. Because of the anger in them, recruiting them becomes easy.

Apart from serving as terrorists, women have also been found to act as handlers sending the young into the world of terror. There have been some cases like this in Hyderabad where women were given the task of convincing their relatives to take to arms. This was the Shaheen Force, and the police managed to crack down on some of them.

Recruiting women works for the terror groups, as in most cases it is found that a woman draws less suspicion from security agencies. But the bigger advantage is that women terrorists have been found to get the job done nine out of 10 times. Unlike men, where disagreements often crop up, the women are found to go about their deadly task without much fuss. A woman terrorist is often found to be dispassionate towards life, and only thinks of the final outcome rather than the consequences, which makes her a deadly weapon, point out Indian officials handling security on the basis of studies conducted by them.

Image: Female Palestinians militate participate in a training camp near Gaza Strip. A woman terrorist is often found to be dispassionate towards life, which makes her a deadly weapon, point out security experts.

Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters

Vicky Nanjappa