Accessibility links

Can IS Brides Blow Themselves Up?

  • Joanna Paraszczuk

Women are allowed to use suicide belts -- assuming of course that they have one on hand -- in cases where they must defend themselves.

Women are allowed to use suicide belts -- assuming of course that they have one on hand -- in cases where they must defend themselves.

Can female Islamic State (IS) militants be suicide bombers?

If so, where can they blow themselves up?

Under what circumstances can "jihadi brides" shoot a sniper rifle? Or a Kalashnikov?

And what sewing skills should a would-be militant wife possess?

All these questions and more are answered in a new treatise issued this week by the Zora Foundation, a pro-IS media group aimed at the wives and would-be wives of IS militants.

The treatise exploring the thorny issue of how and when women can be involved in waging "jihad" was shared on Twitter.

"While this document is not an official declaration of Islamic State policy towards the permissibility of women fighting, it is certainly reflective of it," Charlie Winter, a senior researcher at the counterextremism think tank Quilliam, told RFE/RL.

Serving The Mujahedin

The treatise was written in response to a question from a woman in Saudi Arabia who asked a scholar named Sheikh Abu Abdullah al-Mansur whether women are allowed to take part in fighting, and how they should "serve the mujahedin," or jihadi fighters.

A woman ought to support the mujahedin "according to her abilities" -- "treating the sick, sewing, cooking, washing, or any other measures," the treatise advises.

The Zora Foundation treatise (click to enlarge)

The Zora Foundation treatise (click to enlarge)

On the more complicated issue of women on the battlefield, the treatise explains that female militants are only allowed to fight in a defensive capacity. In other words, women cannot be used suicide bombers in an offensive operation -- except if they are granted permission by their "amir," or commander.

However, women are allowed to use suicide belts -- assuming of course that they have one on hand -- in cases where they must defend themselves.

For example, a female IS militant would be allowed to blow herself up -- or, failing that, use weapons to defend herself -- if her home were raided.

And should a woman happen to be wearing a suicide belt when "Kuffar" (infidels) attacked a hospital or other public place where she is present, she would be permitted to detonate herself there too.

Women, Know Your Limits

According to Winter, the guidelines "unambiguously clarify" the position of IS's female recruits. "Women may not engage in offensive operations unless otherwise designated by the amir; while they are allowed to use guns, and even blow themselves up, this is only permitted in a defensive capacity," Winter said.

Much of the reasoning behind the guidelines seems designed to maintain rigid gender roles and to prevent women from mixing with men.

A woman may, for example, use a sniper rifle -- but only in a "solitary place" and even then only with their commander's permission.

And women are, of course, prohibited from "mixing with the army" because of the "corruption" this would lead to, the guidelines say.

Study Sewing, Nursing, Cooking -- And Weaponry

Women are advised to prepare themselves for "jihad" by studying skills that will help them be useful to male militants, such as nursing, cooking, and sewing.

"Jihadi brides" are also allowed to study weaponry -- as long as they are learning how to use weapons for self-defense, such as "a revolver or a Kalashnikov."

Another useful skill women should master, the guidelines say, is how to make suicide belts and hand grenades.

But all this training must only be carried out in the presence of a "mahram," or chaperone, and in single-sex settings.

"There is no problem with women meeting in order to train with weapons, as long as they are far away from men," the guidelines instruct.

And a woman is allowed to partake in physical exercise as long as she does so in order to "strengthen her body, cure an illness, or in the presence of righteous women."

Of course, women must wear "loose, covering clothes" when exercising and be "far from the eyes of men." To reinforce the point on appropriate clothing, the guidelines point out that women must dress before leaving the house.

Founded in the fall of 2014, the Zora Foundation has previously issued guidelines on how to prepare female IS recruits for jihad, including how to cook and sew for militants, how to use editing programs to help spread IS propaganda, and how to administer first aid.

The English translation of the Arabic treatise was provided by Charlie Winter of the Quilliam Foundation

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena


Show comments