Al-Khansaa Brigade

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Al-Khansaa Brigade
لواء الخنساء
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Al-Khansaa Media Brigade.jpg
Official emblem of the Al-Khansaa Media Brigade
Active February 2014[1]–17 October 2017
Leaders Fatiha el-Mejjat[2]
Headquarters Raqqa
Area of operations Raqqa and Mosul
Size 60[1]
Part of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

The Al-Khansaa Brigade (Arabic: لواء الخنساء‎) is an all-women police or religious enforcement unit of the extremist self-proclaimed jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), operating in its de facto capital of Raqqa and Mosul.[3] Formed in early 2014 and apparently named after Al-Khansa, a female Arabic poet from the earliest days of Islam, it is unclear how widespread and sustained the group is. It is unique in the Muslim world where in other regimes with similar systems of religious police (such as Saudi Arabia) men enforce hisbah among women, and in the Islamic State has not spread outside of the capital Raqqa, leading one observer to wonder if it is a publicity "stunt" that will be “short-lived".[4]

An ISIL official, Abu Ahmad, said in 2014, "We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law."[5] The outfit has also been called ISIL's 'moral police'.[4]

Women who go out without a male chaperone or aren’t fully covered in public are subject to arrests and beatings by Al-Khansaa.[4]An example of crimes punished and sentences administered by al-Khansaa were those for two women in the ISIL capital of Raqqa in 2015, who received 20 lashes for wearing form-fitting abayas, five for wearing makeup underneath their abayas, and another five for "not being meek enough when detained".[6]

The brigade has its own facilities to prevent mingling between men and women.[4] Women are aged between 18 and 25, receiving a monthly salary of 25,000 Syrian liras.[7] According to defectors interviewed by Sky News, al-Khansa Brigade includes many foreign women. Recruits are "trained for a month". Their pay is estimated to be "between £70 and £100 per month". Members carry guns and may be fighters (many European women who fight on the front line) or women who "police the streets and look after the city’s affairs" (tending to be of Arabic descent).[8]

According to one source hostile to ISIL, women in the territory administered by ISIL are not allowed to drive cars or carry weapons, but women in the Khansaa Brigade "can do both".[3]

In April 2017 the group released a recruitment video for female hackers claiming to have hacked over 100 social media accounts over the previous month.[9] There have also been reports of infiltration of the group members in Iraqi refugee camps.[10]

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