The BBC has published a report detailing the reasons why Western women are drawn to Iraq and Syria to join jihad.
The report by Dr Katherine Brown of Kings College London cites examples of numerous women, saying that social media has played a big role in radicalising them and allowing them to spread their message. Using networks such as Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Ask.fm, they speak of mundane domestic life in the war zone.
One female medic tweeted in January: “Stethoscope around my neck and kalash on my shoulder. Martyrdom is my highest dream,” while others have spoken about cooking, doing housework, meeting friends for coffee and being mothers.
Online networks are also helping them make contacts in order to facilitate travel and place them within expat communities once they arrive.
French families even report receiving phone calls from men in Syria asking for their daughters’ hand in marriage, while social media accounts of male fighters have reportedly been bombarded with women asking to be their bride.
Online interactions also create a sense of romanticism about travelling to help found a new state and live a utopian dream. Within the Islamic State, women can take a variety of jobs, including joining Raqqa’s Al-Khansaa brigade, an all-women ‘police force’ that enforces a strict interpretation of Sharia law in public. It was allegedly set up by British women.
This is combined with sense of disillusionment with life in their countries of origin, and a feeling that they will fit in better elsewhere. For example, one Dutch woman told the US-based Al-Monitor: “I always wanted to live under Sharia. In Europe, this will never happen.”
However, the report also found that the women appear to know little about Islamic law and the wider the conflict in the Middle East. Br Brown concludes that they are motived more by “naïve romanticism” than a full knowledge of what they are getting themselves into.