Female suicide bomber

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Female suicide bombers are women who carry out a class of suicide attack, where the bomber performs violent acts in order to kill people and themselves. Suicide bombers are normally viewed as male political radicals, but since the 1960s female suicide attacks have been on the rise. There are many organizations that recently started using women as tools in their attacks, since they are normally viewed as less of a threat than their male counterparts. This includes women having the element of surprise, a hesitancy to search females, increased publicity for female suicide bombing attacks, and the female stereotype as non-violent.[1]


Female bombers have an extensive and very complex history.


  • Sana’a Mehaidli is believed to have been the first female suicide bomber. On April 9, 1985, she blew up herself and a truck of explosives next to an Israeli convoy in Lebanon during the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon.
  • Thenmozhi Rajaratnam also known as Dhanu. Thought to have been a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers), involved in the Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi
  • Wafa Idris Arafat called for an "Army of Roses." Wafa became an icon and served under Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
  • Sri Lanka's political group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), under the control of the Black Tigers serves as another example. The Black Tigers are known for suicide bombing attacks, and also for the fact that mostly women execute them.[2] In May 1991, a female Tiger named Thenmozhi Rajaratnam killed Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi along with sixteen other bystanders by blowing herself up.[3] She allegedly had been raped by Indian Peace Keeping Force soldiers.[citation needed]
  • Blasts from two female suicide bombers at a crowded fish market in Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri killed at least 20 people on June 22, 2015.[4]
  • In Dagestan, Russia a 17-year-old widow of a Caucasus militant wearing a suicide bomb vest approached a Ministry of the Interior office in the village of Gubden . She was apparently stopped at a security post outside the office where she detonated her explosives, killing one police officer and injuring four others. The attack was claimed by the Caucasus Emirate militant Jihadist group, Dokku Umarov.[5]
  • A woman detonated a suicide bomb vest at the entrance to Baghdad College on February 25, 2007, killing at least 40 people and wounding more than 30 others with hot shrapnel.[6]
  • On December 23, 2016, the first female suicide bomber in Bangladesh detonated her explosive during a police raid.[7]


The Shahidka, commonly called the "Black widows" are a group of Islamist Chechen separatist suicide bombers. Khava Barayeva blew herself up at a Russian Army outpost in June 2000. In 2001, Aiza Gazuyeva killed Russian general Gaidar Gadzhiyev in a suicide bombing, the first female suicide bomber of the Chechen insurgency. The group carried out the Moscow theater hostage crisis and some were involved in the Beslan school siege. A bombing that killed 10 people at Rizhskaya metro station in Moscow was thought to be carried out by a woman who was identified as a Beslan school captor. The 2004 Russian aircraft bombings are believed to be carried out by female bombers. Two of the perpetrators of the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings were women; Dzhanet Abdullayeva, who was married to a militant,and Maryam Sharipova.[3] The October 2013 Volgograd bus bombing was carried out by a woman.

Palestinian bombers[edit]

On the same day Darine Abu Aisha committed a suicide bombing, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the religious leader of Islamist militant group Hamas, issued a fatwa, or religious rule, that gave permission to women to participate in suicide attacks as well as listing the rewards in "Paradise" that these female martyrs would receive upon their deaths. He also promised Hamas will send many female suicide bombers in order to strike Israelis.

Reactions to this in the Islamic world were mixed. While many hailed the female suicide bomber and urged full involvement of all in Jihad, some criticized the cruelty of tearing mothers from their children and sending them to explode themselves.

Notable female Palestinian suicide bombers include

Causes and reasons[edit]

There are different causes and reasons as to why female suicide bombers perform these deadly actions.They can be motivated by political and/or historical contexts to take action against their enemy. Jihadist groups recruit women as suicide bombers "to fill a recruiting void, to achieve tactical surprise, and for strategic purposes."[10] For example, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian female suicide bombers are often motivated by Anti-Zionism and the Israeli occupation of their homeland to take action. According to Palestinian American legal scholar Noura Erakat, the "Israeli military occupation [is] a significant, if not the most significant, factor contributing to the subjugation of Palestinian women's rights."[11] They are often motivated by the politics of their environment to take action in this situation. Western feminist critic Amal Amireh notes examples of how the women exercise their political agency in the conflict, including the fact the bomber often declares in public her political group and nationalism, as well as the fact that they commit the act in public as a spectacle to be observed.[12]


Female suicide bombers' motivations in the context of the Middle East are often understood according to what Amal Amireh calls a "Death by Culture" paradigm that attributes the women's actions to "an abusive patriarchal Arab culture that drives them to destroy themselves and others.".[12] The female suicide bomber by nature challenges this Orientalist view because as bombers, they exercise their political agency and their actions are less submissive and dependent than their Western image. Understanding their motivation through a cultural context could mean attributing their actions to sexual abuse, proving their worth, or standing up for their families.[12] These explanations don't take into account historical or political contexts that could motivate the women. The equation of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism as a single motivation is a misconception in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict because it dismisses the validity of women who support Palestinian self-determination, for they are seen as Anti-Semitic.[11]


Organizations of female suicide bombers[edit]

Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is a known terrorist organization that trained many female suicide bombers since their uprising as political weapons. In January 2002, the group claimed responsibility for the first female suicide bombing attack inside of Israel, in efforts to push Israel settlers out of west bank and to form an entirely Palestinian state. The group is known to be most active in the Gaza strip, but also attacks inside of Israel and the West Bank.


  1. ^ http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB408.pdf
  2. ^ Ransirini, Shamara (2015). "Becoming Militant: Narrative of (Dis?) embodiment in Visakesa Chandrasekaram's Tigers Don't Confess" (PDF). Outskirts. 33. Retrieved September 6, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Revealed: world's deadliest female terrorists". Retrieved 2016-09-06. 
  4. ^ "Nigeria violence: Bomb at fish market kills at least 20 - BBC News". Retrieved 2016-09-06. 
  5. ^ "Twelve die in Dagestan bombings". BBC. 2010-03-31. Retrieved 2016-09-06. 
  6. ^ "Suicide bomber kills 40 at Baghdad college". Reuters. 2007-02-25. Retrieved 2016-09-06. 
  7. ^ "Bangladesh's female jihadists". Dhaka Tribune. 2016-12-23. Retrieved 2016-12-27. 
  8. ^ López-Guerra, Claudio; Maskivker, Julia (2015-02-05). Rationality, Democracy, and Justice: The Legacy of Jon Elster. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781316123737. 
  9. ^ McGreal, Chris (2004-01-14). "Human-bomb mother kills four Israelis at Gaza checkpoint". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-09-06. 
  10. ^ Davis, Jessica. "Evolution of The Global Jihad: Female Suicide Bombers in Iraq." Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 36.4 (2013): 279-291. Academic Search Complete. Web November 16, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Erakat, Noura. "Arabiya Made Invisible: Between Marginalization of Agency and Silencing of Dissent" in Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2011. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. November 18, 2015
  12. ^ a b c Amireh, Amal. "Palestinian Women's Disappearing Act: The Suicide Bomber Through Western Feminist Eyes" in Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2011. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. November 18, 2015

Further reading[edit]

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