Female suicide bomber
Female suicide bombers are 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.
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.
- 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. In May 1991, a female Tiger named Thenmozhi Rajaratnam killed Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi along with sixteen other bystanders by blowing herself up. She allegedly had been raped by Indian Peace Keeping Force soldiers.
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. One of the perpetrators of the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings was a woman who was married to a militant. The October 2013 Volgograd bus bombing was carried out by a woman.
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
- Wafa Idris - first suicide bomber (bombing date: January 27, 2002)
- Ayat al-Akhras - third suicide bomber (bombing date: March 29, 2002)
- Andalib Suleiman - fourth suicide bomber (bombing date: April 12, 2002)
- Hanadi Jaradat - sixth suicide bomber (bombing date: October 4, 2003)
Causes and reasons
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." 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." 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.
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.". 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. 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.
Organizations of female suicide bombers
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.
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- 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
- 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
- Berko, Anat, and Elizabeth Yuval. The smarter bomb: women and children as suicide bombers. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. ISBN 9781442219526
- Rajan, V. G. Julie. Women Suicide Bombers: Narratives of Violence. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011. ISBN 9780415552257
- Skaine, Rosemarie. Female Suicide Bombers. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006. ISBN 0786426152
- Victor, Barbara. Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers. [Emmaus, Pa.?]: Rodale, 2003. ISBN 157954830X
- Naber, Nadine Christine, Evelyn Alsutany, and Rabab Abdulhadi. Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2011. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. November 18, 2015
- "'Female' suicide bomber strikes Cameroon night spot".
- "5 female suicide bombers strike in Nigeria". The Long War Journal.
- Mia Bloom (6 August 2014). "Female suicide bombers are not a new phenomenon". Washington Post.
- Snagfilms. "Watch "Female Suicide Bombers" Full Documentary Online - Snagfilms". Snagfilms.