The Jihadist Plan to Use Women to Launch the Next Incarnation of ISIS
Albanian Daily News
Published November 28, 2017
The woman's secret flight from the caliphate took place more than six months ago, aided by a smuggler who helped her sneak across the Syria-Turkey border one spring night. But in spirit, this red-haired exile from the Islamic State never truly left.
She covered herself in black from head to toe to greet a recent visitor to the small Moroccan house where she stays and removed her veil only when assured that her guest, also a woman, was alone. Over sips of mint tea, she spoke admiringly of her militant husband and the comrades she met in the Islamic State's all-
female brigade. Calling herself Zarah — she declined to give her family name because she had traveled to Syria in secret — she vowed that her children would someday reclaim the Islamist paradise she believes was stolen from her family.
"We will bring up strong sons and daughters and tell them about the life in the caliphate," she said, fingering her teacup through black gloves. "Even if we hadn't been able to keep it, our children will one day get it back."
Zarah's blunt-spoken fealty to the Islamic State was remarkable, given the physical and legal perils facing Islamic State residents who seek to return to former homes. But counterterrorism officials fear that the sentiments expressed by the Moroccan woman may not be so unusual.
In recent months, female immigrants to the Islamic State have been fleeing the caliphate by the hundreds, eventually returning to their native countries or finding sanctuary in detention centers or refugee camps along the way. Some are mothers with young children who say they were pressured into traveling to Iraq or Syria to be with their husbands. But a disturbing number appear to have embraced the group's ideology and remain committed to its goals, according to interviews with former residents of the caliphate as well as intelligence officials and analysts who are closely tracking the returnees.
From North Africa to Western Europe, the new arrivals are presenting an unexpected challenge to law enforcement officials, who were bracing for an influx of male returnees but instead have found themselves deciding the fate of scores of women and children. Few of the women fought in battle, yet governments are beginning to regard all as potential threats, both in the near term and well into the future. Indeed, as the loss of the caliphate has appeared ever more certain, Islamic State leaders in recent weeks have issued explicit directions to female returnees to prepare for new missions that include carrying out suicide attacks and training offspring to become future terrorists.
"There were definitely cases of women being dragged off to ISIS, but there are others who have been radicalized, including some who went on to assume important roles," said Anne Speckhard, director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, a nonprofit organization that conducts field research on Islamic State deserters and defectors.
A Syrian woman interviewed in Turkey by the center "wanted both her kids to grow up to be martyrs," Speckhard said.
(Source: Washington Post)