War has always historically been fought by men, generally the physically stronger sex, who are more inclined to take up arms than their female countrymen.
But the exodus of Europeans making their way to Syria has been followed up by stories of male fighters making their way back home or trying to negotiate a safe passage back after realising that terrorist warfare isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
There have been stories of wannabe jihadis complaining they only got to do the washing up and others who decided to go home because they couldn’t charge up their iPods.
And the role for women has been a passive one: encouraged to marry jihadis and bear their children to create a new generation of brainwashed fighters and cater to their new husband’s needs blindly.
For Western women in a liberal democracy where females can achieve whatever they put their minds to, it is an anathema to leave that behind and travel to join an organisation who view women as second class citizens, unfit to hold down a job let alone public office and as property of their husband.
But research from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalism (ICSR) has discovered that the Islamic State women have carved themselves a niche as recruiting sergeants on social media outlets, encouraging other women in the UK to carry out terrorist attacks back home.
The Observer reports that the centre has identified a group of around 30 female Britons based on northern Syria who are using their online accounts to act as Isil recruiters, praising the Charlie Hebdo shootings and encouraging further attacks against non Muslims including beheadings which security services in the UK are already on high alert for.
Melanie Smith, research fellow at the ICSR and the person in charge of the first known database of the female fighters said: “British women tend to incite [attacks], they say to people that can’t move to the Islamic State: ‘Why not carry out something at home?’ That’s a common message: if you can’t leave your family behind or afford to move to Syria then carry out something.”
The database shows how the traditional view of women in fundamentalist societies is becoming increasingly outdated. Ms Smith said that while they may not have the same military training, “you can see women online being frustrated about the fact they can’t fight and they suggest to each other that they could do something else.”
In the past, women have been suicide bombers, traditionally attracting less attention from those on the look out for threats, and the strict rules of the IS run lands are policed by gangs of women, including Westerners, who dish out harsh punishments to those they see as not covering themselves sufficiently or behaving inappropriately. These women also stand by and allow women and children to be bought and sold as sex slaves, raped on a daily basis.
The ICSR noticed a spike in social media activity following the Paris shootings, with a 16 year old from Manchester celebrating the shootings on her twitter account and another writing “May Allah help them kill as many kafirs they can #parisshooting.”
The roles of women in the military are changing with women soon to be allowed into front line infantry troops in the British Armed Forces. But the redevelopment of the fighting strategy has also changed with an emphasis on intelligence gathering where women are often at an advantage to their male colleagues.
And it seems that even though IS are stuck in the Middle Ages in terms of their views on women’s rights and freedom of expression and tolerance, when it comes to the propaganda war, they are allowing women to take a front line role.