Monday, March 30, 2015

The women of the Islamic State

We are not talking about those females whom the "right hand possesses" or slaves captured/kidnapped, we are talking about women who freely choose to leave their comfortable Western homes and travel to Syria and Iraq and be part of the global jihad.  They freely give themselves to jihadi fighters in marriage, do medical work and keep the home fires burning.  They are the unsung heroines of the Islamic State and the front line for keeping moral among the faithful.

From The Star March 30 by Michelle Shephard

Why it's wrong to underestimate the Islamic State's female recruits

Umm Jihad may very well be who she claims to be, a 20-year-old American university student who was studying business in Virginia until she left to join the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, in Syria.

When she is asked in a private online chat how she should be identified, she sends a photo of four women hanging out of a white Beemer and hoisting AK-47s in the air. Their hair, faces and bodies are completely shrouded in black robes and veils so they cannot be identified.

She responds: “Me and some Aussies.”

It is easy to ridicule as the Islamic State equivalent of Girls Gone Wild. Much of the Islamic State’s chatter on social media seems more laughable than serious, leading a CNN host to say last month that the group lured women with kittens, Nutella and emojis. Then CNN’s Carol Costello’s suggestion was then widely mocked by Islamic State supporters.

“There are very facile reductions, especially TV sensationalism of tropes like kittens and Nutella pancakes, and it is really problematic because it is not getting at understanding the nuanced, complex factors that lead women from Western nations to go and join forces with groups like ISIS,” says Jasmin Zine, an associate professor of sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Zine has been researching the impact of the “war on terror” and Islamophobia on identity and citizenship, as well as radicalization among Canadian Muslim youth.

“Highlighting only the absurd glosses over the reasons why women are drawn to the group or the real risks they face,” she said.

Much of what we have learned about the Islamic State comes from its members, although most of what they post online is to praise the group.

The risks of moving into a war zone and being caught between warring factions or aerial strikes are rarely mentioned. In addition, there are reports of sexual abuse or teenage girls forced to move from one husband to another as their fighter husbands are killed.

Clearly what is never mentioned in the propaganda is that joining the Islamic State may be easy — getting out is hard.

Since most online posting is anonymous, it is hard verify identities.

One of the Islamic State’s most influential online voices used to be a Twitter account under the name Shami Witness. Last year, Britain’s Channel 4 uncovered that Shami Witness was not a holy warrior, or pro-ISIS analyst, but a 24-year-old businessman from Bangalore, India, who apparently had a lot of time on his hands.

But if Umm Jihad is not who she purports to be, her statements still echo hundreds of others online and provide insight into what women drawn to ISIS are either reading or writing.

They talk about the Islamic State’s higher calling, the sense of sisterhood and they romanticize their marriages, or becoming young mothers.

Zine says some are driven by a humanitarian impulse, a need to do something in response to Muslim deaths of the so-called war on terror. “It has a lot to do with what’s happening in the world these youths are seeing in alternative media. They see death and destruction in a way the normal consumer of Western media culture doesn’t see because it has been mainly a nameless, faceless war,” she said.

Only a few voices from women inside can be heard online about how bad it can be for these young women. Some complain that there is tension between those from Western countries, versus locals in Syria and Iraq, where the group has declared its Caliphate.

One woman, claiming on Twitter that foreigners are “subjected to mistreatment and discrimination from the locals,” describes an incident where a foreign woman was left to bleed at a hospital during a miscarriage, while doctors tended to local patients.

Most foreign women come from European countries, Australia and, to a lesser degree, Canada and the U.S. Umm Jihad posted a photo on Twitter of four gloved hands holding Canadian, American, Australian and British passports.

“Bonfire soon, no need for these anymore,” she wrote.

A 23-year-old woman from Edmonton is believed to be among the recruits. She reportedly left for the Islamic State last summer after enrolling in an online course to study the Qur’an taught by another woman based in Edmonton, according to a CBC television report.

In January, Shayma Senouci, a girl from the suburbs of Montreal was reported missing to police and is presumed to have left for Syria. Her Facebook account rages against a 2013 proposal by the Quebec government to ban religious symbols and calls Israel's shelling of Gaza last summer a “genocide.”

“How can we stay impassive when faced with this?!!” she wrote last July.

Three other Canadian teenagers also tried last year to join, abruptly leaving their Brampton homes and making it as far as Istanbul, Turkey, before authorities turned them back after being alerted by their parents.

Umm Jihad says she misses nothing about the West and she believes it was her obligation as a Muslim to join the Islamic State. A British woman she met online helped her leave Virginia last November for Raqqa, Syria, where she says she now lives.

When we started talking a couple of weeks ago, she was living alone with her husband, whom she did not identify.

But she said women were happiest when their husbands died in battle and became ashahid, or martyr. The widows then “have to wait four months and 10 days before they’re allowed to leave the house, remarry, go shopping etc.,” she wrote in a text. “It’s not hard because it’s for the sake of Allah and we are happy to observe it . . . When one husband gets martyred, it’s like a celebration.”

The next day, she got her wish, posting on Twitter that her husband, Abu Jihad Al Australi was killed, waxing poetically of his death. “My husband had a dream a week before he went to battle. He dreamt that he got shot in the head and it felt like a pinch,” she wrote.

“He saw a bright light that he was trying to go towards, as he was getting closer n closer to it it got brighter n brighter until he couldn’t . . . handle it. I remember him tell me his dream and laughing.”

If true, she was married to a man from Melbourne, Australia named Suhan Rahman. Photos of his blood-soaked body were posted alongside other fighters killed in clashes with Kurdish fighters earlier this month, including the body of what is believed to be Ahmad Waseem, who was from Windsor and was known by the kunya, or nickname, ofAbu Turab al-Kanadi.

Umm Jihad’s posts on Twitter grew more strident after her husband’s death, urging attacks on the West, or “that treacherous tryant” U.S. President Barack Obama.

But she is polite and conciliatory when answering questions on the social-messaging app KIK, unlike her Twitter account, which was suspended Saturday. When asked about disconnect, she responds: “Oh lol. Not like I can tell u to go kill kuffar,” using the word for the non-believers.

There is more, read it all

No comments: