Oleh Raka Nur Wijayanto

Sekretaris Umum Jama’ah Shalahuddin

“So throughout history, women have participated in violent uprisings, performing strategic, supportive and even combat roles in a wide range of violent movements. Today, as Sjoberg, et al (2011:2) have noted, “women’s active involvement in militant and terrorist organizations – as support personnel, as logistics personnel, as kinetic resources, as attackers, kidnappers and hijackers and as martyrs – has grown substantially and become a matter of public attention and record across the globe.”. While this has become problematic and has generated questions about the frequency, importance, uniqueness and meaning of women’s terrorist activities, it is becoming very clear that the relationship between women, gender and terrorism cannot be ignored any longer. Questions about the motivations of the women who become active in these organizations are been raised –do they participate on strictly religious, political or personal reasons and which of these are more important as guiding and motivating their decisions?”

(Agara. Tunde, ‘Gendering Terrorism: Women, Gender, Terrorism and Suicide Bombers’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, vol. 5, no. 6 (1), June 2015, p. 116)

Historical Narrative

Various acts of terrorism within historical framework are often attached to masculine identities. The processes of plane hijacking, suicide bombing, and of course, making decision on terrorist organization, have been attached to male groups. Men thought to have dominated the roles of terrorism, from the planning to the action, as well as for the puppeteer to the actor. Meanwhile, the women roles visualized very limited on this thing. In fact, it is undeniable that, as a human being, women can have same understanding with men about terrorism. More concretely, it is possible if the woman was the one who has the role physically as terrorist. Therefore, an understanding of the planning and the action of terrorism should not be gender-biased. Assuming that men and women have equal opportunity to plan and commit terrorism, the problems that facing mankind around the world more complex than before.

According to Sutten’s book, “The Rising Importance of Women in Terrorism and Counterterrorism the Need to Reform Strategy”, he explained that female terrorism has been existed long time ago. According to U.S. Security Organization’s definition about terrorism, Sutten warned implicitly not to be fooled by the objectives of that definition. Focusing to his definition, terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of force or violence committed by a group or individual, who has some connection to a foreign power or whose activities transcend or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives [1]. With underlining on the substance over the definition related with involved parties, then for Sutten is not different, whether male or female, as long as he/she creates fear, he/she is the perpetrator of terrorism.

Female terrorism has been recorded since 1881 in Europe. At that time, Sophia Perovskaya initiated an assault against the king of Tsar Alexander II by blowing multiple bombs when he was heading to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. The incident is known as ‘The People’s Will Tragedy’. ‘The People’s Will’ was the name which taken from the organization led by Perovskaya, the radical-revolutionary organization with the original name was ‘Narodnaya Volya’. For the tragedy, the royals executed him that marks their first executions against women on the basis of criminal acts [2].

Female terrorism was also seen in Palestinian-Jordanian Conflict in the 1970s. In the war period, a series of plane hijackings carried out by ‘Black September’, an extreme organization that had few moments into a wing of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) before being taken out because their ideological difference. Leila Khaled became one of the hijackers who was captured by the British government. Negotiations between ‘Black September’ and British government were tough, as evidenced by the next plane hijacking incident, with regard to demands of Leila’s release. Leila Khaled was considered by them as a ‘sex symbol for her cause and revolutionaries worldwide'[3].

In the third case, female terrorism can be traced in the movement of ‘The Black Widows’. ‘The Black Widows’ is a female terrorist organization that provided support for Chechen independence. They recorded the first perform on June 7, 2000, when two members of their group did suicidal attack. They drove a truck into the headquarters of Russian Special Forces detachment. That attack was the first terrorism action in Russia that uses the suicide bombing technique. Since that successful perform, suicide bombings characterized their attacks on the fight against Russian forces in order to seize Chechen independence. However, their action background has many differences than the female terrorists before, with the tendency of zombification behavior initiated by Chechen male terrorists as example drugs consumption and sexual enslavement [4].

In other case recounted by Jacques and Taylor expressed quite interesting phenomenon. They studied the case of the suicide bombing that occurred in Iraq on November 9, 2005. That interesting side is the one who did suicide bombing was a Belgian-born woman who lived in Iraq. Her name is Muriel Degauque and she was a converted religious woman. That incident is a milestone for the presence of European women face in suicide bomb attacks in Iraq. She also has a contrast background with the majority of female terrorists in predominantly muslim countries. She was an educated and reportedly well-mannered young woman who came from a supportive family and community [5].

Since 2002, there has been a significant expansion of female terrorists, or more precisely female suicide bombers, by some Islamist-claim groups. Nevertheless, female suicide attacks in predominantly Muslim countries have been recorded since 1985 when a female member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) attacked an Israeli convoy in Lebanon. In the period of 25 years (1985-2010), over 220 attacks were conducted by women. In 2007, 17 organizations worldwide were found to use suicide bombings as a tactic, and women participated as bombers in 50 percent of these groups [6]. In other data, on the period of one decade (1997-2007), women were involved at least in 38 terrorism incidents, from domestic until international scales. Approximately 10% – 30% terrorist in that incidents are female [7].

The Causes and The Consequences

Many observers give their hypothesis about female terrorism based on the factors that lie behind them. With constricting the subject’s scope to the muslimahs, at least it has two dimensions which cause themselves commit terrorism: internal dimension and external dimension. Internal dimension can be related with the factors that emerge from within themselves, for example, ideological and psychological aspects. Meanwhile, external dimension related to outer factors that influence the way they think and act, such as family values and community structures.

Sutten explained that there are at least six reasons behind women to involved terrorism. That reasons are revenge for the loss, ideological commitment, social status enhancement, financial needs, personal and group disgrace closure, and protection’s efforts for herself or her groups [8]. In general, Sutten offend on many potential sides that change women paradigms. That are started from the psychological, ideological, sociological, and economical aspects. However, from that six reasons, the vital factors which is make the problems more complex are associated with ideological and psychological aspects. Both aspects are capable of making women’s normal behavior to be abnormal. They see the world 180 degrees differently than before. Logical thinking which is formed after the brainwashing process seems very chaotic because the related person did not hesitate to eliminate his own life, and the other innocent lifes, for the sake of ideological reasons or the sake of psychological pressures release.

Meanwhile, Jacques and Taylor looked from a more empirical side [9]. From a quantitative research whom they did, there is the conclusion that the cause of the rise of terrorism are not entirely same between female terrorists and male terrorists. They saw that the female terrorist backgrounds are likely workless, fewer being religion converted, and less-status immigrants. They noticed that ‘terrorism is a young person’s game’ term is not wrong. The average ages of female terrorists are approximately 22.5 years. It is just that was not the aspect of age being a major factor. Family factors also determine how the logic of terrorism formed.

Borrowing Thomas Hobbes phrase for state’s analogy, terrorism in reality has a feature ‘tremendum et fascinans’. On the one hand, terrorism is an amazing act. There never has been in a previous history that someone dared to take him/her life and his opponent’s (personal/group) lifes for the sake of some existential interests. That context is certainly not as same as ‘jihad’ in Allah’s way considering the nature of terrorism is never indiscriminate. Women, elder peoples, and childrens – three kinds of groups that forbidden being killed by muslim in Islamic law – were ignored by terrorists. Then, what are the consequences?

Xenophobia and Islamophobia affects almost the entire world this time. One of the US president candidates shows a sense of hatred against Islam. Anti-Islamization movement growing rapidly in Europe, one of them is Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) which is led by Lutz Bachmann. Far right parties are more popular and get wider place in Europe. One of the latest news coming from Germany. Germany regional election on this month showed a quite surprising result: The Anti-Migrant Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) got high enough percentage and threaten Merkel’s position, and that means threaten ‘Open for Refugees’ policy too [10]. Some examples above appears not solely due to internal factors of Western people. In their perspective, their fear of Islam emerged because muslim behaviours threaten their model values, and so should we profess: just and peace world orders.

Once, Ibn Abu Lailan reported that the companions of Prophet Muhammad SAW told us they were travelling with the Prophet. One man fell asleep and some of them took his rope as a joke, then he panicked. So the Prophet said,

“It is not lawful for a Muslim to frighten another Muslim.”[11]

On the other context, Prophet said,

“None of you should point a weapon at his brother. Verily, he does not know if satan will cause his hand to slip and thus he falls into a pit of fire.”[12]

Prophet is an ‘uswatun hasanah’ for all of people in the world, including women. Meanwhile, terrorism is contradictive understanding from exemplary nature. Therefore, a question arise: is terrorism ‘jihad’ according to the Word of God (Al-Qur’an) and the guidance of the Prophet (Hadith)?


[1]Sutten. Marne, The Rising Importance of Women in Terrorism and the Need to Reform Counterterrorism Strategy, Advanced Military Studies Program, Kansas, 2009, p. 4-5

[2]Sutten. Marne, The Rising Importance of Women in Terrorism and the Need to Reform Counterterrorism Strategy, p. 7-8

[3]Sutten. Marne, The Rising Importance of Women in Terrorism and the Need to Reform Counterterrorism Strategy, p. 8-10

[4]Sutten. Marne, The Rising Importance of Women in Terrorism and the Need to Reform Counterterrorism Strategy, p. 10-11

[5]Jacques. Karen & Taylor. Paul, ‘Myths and Realities of Female-Perpetrated Terrorism ‘, Law and Human Behaviour, vol. 37, no. 1, 2013, p. 35

[6]Martin. Gus, The SAGE Encyclopedia of Terrorism, Second Edition, SAGE, California, 2011, p. 630

[7]Sutten. Marne, The Rising Importance of Women in Terrorism and the Need to Reform Counterterrorism Strategy, p. 6

[8]Sutten. Marne, The Rising Importance of Women in Terrorism and the Need to Reform Counterterrorism Strategy, p. 21-26

[9]Jacques. Karen & Taylor. Paul, ‘Myths and Realities of Female-Perpetrated Terrorism ‘, Law and Human Behaviour, vol. 37, no. 1, 2013, p. 35-40

[10]Anonim, ‘Merkel Telan Kekalahan Beruntun’, Kompas, 20 September 2016, p. 11

[11]Sunan Abu Dawud 5004

[12]Sahih Bukhari 6661, Sahih Muslim 2617

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