As the Islamic State (ISIS) continues attempting to expand its influence in the West, a new report from Spain’s ABC newspaper highlights the terrorist group’s increasing influence with women, as 20% of Spanish nationals captured trying to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq or already actively participating in it are women.
ABC notes that 40 Spanish nationals are known to fight in Syria and Iraq, including minors and adolescent teens. Eight of those known are women, and there is increasing concern that the Islamic State is using its most sophisticated recruiters to attract Spanish girls to the Middle East to serve as leaders of Sharia, enforcing brigades, or as sex slaves for the mujahideen. These numbers are from Spain’s Service of Intelligence and Information, the agency responsible for federal intelligence gathering.
To highlight the effort the Islamic State is putting into recruiting women from Spain–which they call Al-Andalus, a name often used by jihadists for Spain, heralding back to the south’s medieval Muslim past–ABC researched recruitment efforts on social media, particularly Facebook. There, jihadist groups are established, in which professional recruiters entrusted by the Islamic State to attract young girls to the cause and convince them to run away from their homes describe Raqqa as a paradise for Muslims. Users in these groups talk of “young Western girls crazy for jihadists” and claim that Sharia benefits women. One example of this is a user claiming that Al Shabaab, the jihadist terrorist group based in Somalia, “whipped a youth for raping a woman in Mogadishu.” The intent is to make young girls feel safe upon abandoning their families for the Islamic State.
Spanish authorities arrested multiple Spanish nationals in mid-December in a raid that included a number of women working for the Islamic State. Among them was Francis Peña Orellana, a 25-year-old Chilean national believed to be one of the few Latin Americans working on behalf of ISIS. The group recruited extensively on both Facebook and WhatsApp, serving as a guide to young girls whom they found expressed some interest in becoming slave brides for the Islamic State.
The ring was reportedly recruited after a major push by the terrorist group in July that included a Spanish-language video targeting Al-Andalus for reconquest. “We are going to die for her until we liberate all the occupied lands, from Jakarta to Andalusia, Allah willing,” says a man in the video, identified only as “brother.” The Islamic State also included Spain in a map of an ideal expansion, spanning from Andalusía to western China, which it released on social media in July.