Glass Ceiling: Islamic State in Libya Allows Women to Participate in Jihad


For the first time, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has allowed women to participate in combat roles in Libya. The London Times reports that the government there has arrested seven women while attacks killed three last week in Sabratha, located 50 miles from Tripoli.

“Several female operatives have been killed [this week], fighting alongside the men. One of them tried to blow herself up, wearing an explosive vest,” explained Taher al-Gharabli, head of Libya’s military council.

He believes the fighters come from Tunisia.

“The women mostly handle the logistics of the battle but they are also fighting,” said Hussein al-Thwadi, mayor of Sabratha.

Females have joined the Islamic State in large numbers since the rise of the terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq. Until now, however, no evidence existed that the terrorist group allowed women to fight alongside male jihadis on the battlefield because they are not allowed on the front lines of the holy war. Females have expressed their desire to participate in jihad and murders, especially after the Islamic State executed American journalist James Foley. One female ISIS follower, for example, posted a picture of a Western woman and told her followers she wanted to chop off her head.

The Islamic State established the al-Khansaa Brigade as a way to enforce Sharia law without having jihadis touch women, which violates their own law. The group made headlines in December 2014 when the group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently reported that its women used torture devices on other women who disobey Sharia law. They use a bear trap called a “biter” on women’s breasts, which causes “severe pain and wounds [which] may lead women in some cases to be transported to the hospital.” A woman told the group the terrorists used it on her when they caught her breastfeeding her baby in public.

A year later, another woman claimed the battalion mutilated and butchered a mother who breastfed her child in public.

“An [Isis] policewoman took the baby, gave it to another woman, and then killed the mother,” described Aisha, who managed to escape the grips of ISIS after militants beheaded her husband in front of their child.

Islamic state leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently assigned female jihadist Nada al-Qahtani to lead a battalion in Hasakah. She once led al-Khansaa. Activists did not expand on her new duties or if the group plans to establish another brigade.

In May, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College in London found in a study that a feeling of “sisterhood” drew women to the group as much as finding a jihadist groom.

“Much has been made of romantic notions in motivating people to go, but we know that reality is very different,” said author Melanie Smith.

The report, “’Til Martyrdom Do Us Part,” states that more than 550 women fled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. The statistic baffles many authorities since the Islamic State believes in strict Sharia law, which treats women like second-class citizens.