Female Participation In Terrorism Criminology Essay

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Female participation in terrorism will increase significantly as the conflict in the Middle East escalates. One cannot say for sure when female terrorism first appeared on earth, but full account of their activities is recorded in ancient history in several nations' historical archives. There is a limited academic knowledge regarding the female terrorist, but existing data gives a significant amount of information that indicates their apparent existence particularly in the Middle East. There are many factors that may contribute to the female terrorist motivation to participate in terrorist activities. It is possible that these women were forced to participate or if it is of their own will.

Karla Cunningham (2007) found that worldwide; women have participated in terrorists groups, but with their low numbers and seemingly passive roles, their credibility as terrorist actors for many observers are not warranted. Cunningham's study continues to provide an analysis that contends to why female involvement in terrorist activity is widening ideologically, logistically, and regionally for several reasons: increased contextual pressures, the recruitment of women at the same time women's motivations to join these groups increase, and the contextual pressures that impact societal controls over women that facilitate, if not necessitate, more political participation.

Cunningham's 2007 study states that regardless of a woman's region, involvement with politically violent organizations and movements highlight several themes. First, there is a general assumption that most women who become involved with terrorist organizations do so for personal reasons, whether a personal relationship with a man or because of a personal tragedy such as rape or the death of a family member. She believes that this assumption mirrors theories about female criminal activity in the domestic realm, as well as legitimate political activity by women, and diminishes the woman's credibility and influence both within and outside the organizations. As her second theme she states that it is due to the assumption that because women are not considered credible and/or likely perpetrators of terrorist violence, that they can easily carry out attacks and assist their organizations.

Women are able to use their gender to their advantage to avoid detection on several fronts: their "non-threatening" nature may prevent in-depth scrutiny at the most basic level as they are simply not considered important enough to warrant investigation, sensitivities regarding more thorough searches, particularly the search of the woman's bodies, may hamper stricter scrutiny, and lastly a woman's ability to become pregnant and the attendant changes to her body facilitate the concealment of weapons and bombs using maternity clothing, as well as further impeding inspection because of impropriety issues (Cunningham, 2007).

In Cunningham's (2007) correspondence to the existing terrorism theory, the use of suicide campaigns are an example of one type of tactical adaptation utilized by terrorist organizations, especially those involved with the Arab-Israeli conflict and Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka women have become known as effective suicide bombers for the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and that their role is modeled after women's participation in the Indian National Army (INA). Cunningham also states that women have also historically been active, and also less visible, in a range of right-wing organizations including the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the third Reich (2007).

Cunningham provides information to eradicate that women have only been used in missions, she states that there are many cases that suggest that women have not just functioned as support capacities, but they have also been leaders in organizations, recruitment, and fund-raising, as well as tasked with carrying out the missions considered more deadly undertaken by terrorist organizations (2007). Regardless of their region, it is clear that women are choosing to participate in politically violent organizations of their respective organizational leaders motives for recruiting them (Cunningham, 2007).

Cunningham also gives information on some of the most infamous female terrorists of the Middle East. Her research includes Leila Khaled, is the most well-known female terrorist, for her affiliation with the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and her mission of hijacking a plane in 1969. Randa Nabulsi, another woman convicted for planting a bomb in Jerusalem supermarket in 1969, was caught and sentenced to ten years. Although women's roles were increasing among secular and Islamist Palestinian organizations before 2002, suggesting a warning signal that of the impeding escalations of Palestinian violence against Israeli targets. In particular, there was an apparent trend in women's growing roles within the Palestinian resistance that was first initiated with examples of male/female collaboration where the female was trained by more experienced males, followed by individual women planting explosive devices but not detonating them, to the culmination wherein women were tasked with the knowledge of detonating the bomb on their person (Cunningham 2007).

Evolution and Significance

Jeffrey P. Rush and Elizabeth Schafluetzel-lles did research on the evolution and significance of female involvement in terrorist networks and suicide bombings. There are three "flaws" regarding suicide threats, 1) Only crazy or deranged people do this (suicide terror) and they strike at random, 2) these actors do not devote resources to this activity and, 3) It is not a threat to my own community or region as was found by Michelle Malkin (Rush & Schafluetzel-lles, 2007). The authors believe that it is typically the physiology factors that are the first to be argued about against any female involvement in violent or terrorist acts, and the fact of how our species cannot seem to shake the gender roles of men being the stronger protector and women being the weaker protectee (2007). Earlier, in the primordial days, when physical strength was a requirement to defend the tribe in combat it could be argued that men had the physical edge of brute force. It has now been decided that merely squeezing a trigger or flipping a switch is all that is physically required to be able to commit a violent act of terrorism.

It is automatically assumed that the violent female offender is an anomaly, or, at least, an involuntary participant. Even though a female offender or terrorist has been identified, it is often been in the light of secondary support to a larger male-dominated campaign (Rush & Schafluetzel-lles, 2007). The reason provided as to why the phenomenon of female terrorists is prevailing is the deeply engrained ideology of women as life-givers, not life-takers, which does the most to prevent any legitimate notion of the willfully violent female offender (2007). As the authors' cited Otto Pollak, it is automatically assumes that the violent female offender or terrorist is an anomaly, or, at the very least, an involuntary participant. The authors' present information on a few of the historical involvement of females in terrorist networks, but many of them are known to covertly recruit women specifically because of the ease with which females are able to carry out a mission. The groups are The Baader-Meinhof Gang, the ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), Lebanon/Hezbollah, North Korea & Kim Hyon Hui, Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Intifada, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)/ Hamas/ Hezbollah, the Chechnya Rebels, and the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Rush & Schafluetzel-lles say to sensationalize a cause, particularly when the focus remains on the perpetrator as being female, seems to have been the coercive technique utilized by terrorist networks that "occupying democratic entities" are even less able to tolerate than homicide terrorism in general. The loss of life and the horrific nature associated with homicide bombings shock the conscience of modern democracies (2007). Excessive media attention is flamed by the publics' outraged, and sometimes sympathetically, towards these terrorist networks. All of which pressures governments into making concessions that they hope will stop the killing, but not because they have had a particular change in politics.


Mia Bloom's Female Suicide Bombers: a global trend, states that women have played prominent roles in many terrorist organizations, which include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Women have participated in insurgency, revolution, and war for a long time (Bloom, 2007). Bloom also provides information for how women are now taking a leading role in conflicts by become suicide bombers, using their bodies as human detonators for the explosive material strapped to their waists. Their participation in suicide bombings starkly contradicts the theory that women are likely to choose peaceful mechanisms for conflict resolution that men are (Bloom, 2007). Women are inherently more disposed toward moderation, compromise, and tolerance in their attitudes toward international conflict.

According to Bloom, women's motives vary to avenge a personal loss, to redeem the family name, to escape a life of sheltered monotony and achieve fame, or to equalize the patriarchal societies in which they live. In most cases, women are seeking to gain revenge. While women usually become suicide bombers in response to a personal tragedy, some may also believe they can change their society's gender norms through militant involvement. In the Chechen society was to raise children, form their characters, and make them strong so that they became warriors in the Islamic faith (mujahideen) when they grew up. Even after they were allowed to be a part of battles, female insurgents were initially used merely to supply medical aid, food, and water to the men, and they were also responsible for the carrying of weapons and ammunition across enemy territory and maintained the guerilla's morale.