unlawful use of force or violence against persons

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There are many approaches to defining terrorism. There are the simple, legal, analytical, state-sponsored, and state definitions. The simple definition is "violence or threatened violence intended to produce fear or cause of change" (Simonsen & Spindlove, 2007). The definition of terrorism to use in a legal sense of the word is "criminal violence violating legal codes and punishable by the state" (Simonsen & Spindlove, 2007). The analytical definition is "a specific political and/or social factor behind individual violent acts" (Simonsen & Spindlove, 2007). The state-sponsored definition is "national or other groups used to attack western or other vested interests" (Simonsen & Spindlove, 2007). The state definition is "the power of the government used to repress its people to the point of submission" (Simonsen & Spindlove, 2007).

As provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the definition of terrorism is defined as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment, thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives" (28 Code of Federal Regulations Section 0.85). Terrorism derives from the Latin verb terrere meaning to cause to tremble or quiver. As provided by Simonsen and Spindlove, the word "terrorism" was coined during the French Revolution and the Jacobean reign of terror. In the earliest social groups, or tribes, violence could be identified, controlled, or quickly dealt with by either individual or group retaliation (Simonsen & Spindlove, 2007).

Terrorism is said to have a constant impact on the processes of major governments and the lives of common people worldwide (Simonsen & Spindlove, 2007). The fear of terrorism, as stated by Simonsen and Spindlove, has spawned a massive governmental and private security industry aimed at protecting individuals, tourists, travelers, long-established institutions, and industries. Much terrorism has occurred during wartime, and terrorism is sometimes attributed to having started wars (Medhurst, 2002).

Paul Medhurst (2002) states the definitions of domestic, international, and transnational terrorism. Domestic terrorism is generally "viewed as part of the internal sovereign affairs of a state and refers to nationals or permanent residents of a given country committing or planning terrorist acts within the borders of that country, without external involvement" (Medhurst, 2002). With domestic terrorism come two categories: Egotistic terrorists, those who pursue goals for their own beliefs, and Messianic terrorism, terrorists who are pursuing goals for their own beliefs (Medhurst, 2002). International terrorism is considered to mean "terrorist acts committed, planned, or otherwise involving terrorist (who act independently or are sponsored by their governments), in a foreign country" (Medhurst, 2002). International terrorism continues to be a great source of grave tension between states and has clear potential for undermining international peace and stability (Medhurst, 2002). There are three categories for international terrorism that can also be used for domestic: Negotiable terrorists (who may be entered into negotiations with), Non-negotiable terrorist, those who refuse to negotiate, and Surrogate terrorists, those terrorists that commit terrorism on behalf of others (Medhurst, 2002).

Transnational terrorism, a relatively new term, noted by US FBI Director Louis Freeh, before the Senate Committee on Appropriations in February 1999 (as cited by Medhurst, 2002), depends upon the particular circumstances of three elements: Location, motivation, and sponsorship. With location, it is not a relevant factor for transnational terrorist and may be committed by citizens of the State in which the terrorist act takes place, foreign residents, foreign nationals, visitors, or a combination of those categories, Transnational terrorists have no fixed geographical or national base, and they are highly mobile. The motivation for the transnational terrorists involves a motivation of mostly a strong personal or religious idea, rather than a broad purely political motive. Sponsorship is when states and nations do not mostly support transnational terrorists, but they obtain their funding from private services or diversion of legitimate charity fund (Medhurst, 2002).

There is a new threat to mankind, and the world, instead of focusing on this threat, is dismissing the thought of women committing any act that is considered violent. The female in general is considered to be a gentle and caring individual with the characteristics of being motherly and helpful. This is no longer true for the generations of women that have changed due to personal or political changes occurring around them. Why do these women participate in an activity that is considered to be one only a man should participate in?

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.

Review of Literature

Women terrorists are not well known to the world as of yet. These women have been around for years, but they are just now being written about as an unnoticed threat to society. Women terrorists were first recruited to care for the men that were used to carry out the missions stated by their organizations. They were finally chosen to carry out the missions for themselves, being taught to do everything that the men were taught. The authors below are giving information as to why these women have done, are doing, and will continue to do.


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 (2007) 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.

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).

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.

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). Otto Pollak (as cited by Rush & Schafluetzel-lles, 2007), says that it is automatically assumed that the violent female offender or terrorist is an anomaly, or, at the very least, an involuntary participant. Rush and Schafluetzel-lles provide information on a few of the historical involvement of females in terrorist networks, where many of them are known to secretly 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.

A Global Trend

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's study (2007), 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 (Bloom, 2007). In the Chechen society was imperative to raise children, form their characters, and make them strong so that they became warriors in the Islamic faith (mujahideen) when they grew up (Bloom, 2007). 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 (Bloom, 2007).

According to Clara Beyler (as cited by Bloom, 2007), a counter-terrorism analyst in Washington, D.C., said, "There is a difference between men and women suicide attackers: women consider combat as a way to escape the predestined life that is expected of them. When women become human bombs, their intent is to make a statement not only in the name of a country, a religion, a leader, but also in the name of their gender."

Women as Terrorists

Deborah Galvin's study (2006), explains that women are constantly in a battle to fight for recognition they are equivalent (or possibly better) than men. While many women aspire to be all that they can be, only a few make the points of their desired achievement (Galvin, 2006). Galvin also goes on to explain that women are what criminologists refer to as "able" criminals, meaning those criminals who are smart, proficient, versatile, and eager to learn. If their excitement can be channeled toward terrorism, it is entirely possible that women will become the more proficient terrorists (Galvin, 2006).

Galvin (2006) states that she finds female terrorists to be definitely fascinating, especially in conjunction with the sexual mystique of female terrorism. Terrorist groups are aware of this, and they use it for the psychological advantage as well as the sexual allure that seems to be co-mingled with newsworthiness (Galvin, 2006). Female terrorists not only make good media spokespersons, but terrorist groups know that operations carried out by the women will garner extensive media coverage (Galvin, 2006). Terrorist groups have also been known to use the women so that it makes them look less evil, and gender alone is enough to evoke public sympathy (Galvin, 2006). In a much earlier thesis written by Galvin in 1983, she states that she thinks that this all a myth by stating that female terrorists have been uniformly portrayed as "more violent, ruthless, and uncompromising than their male counterparts."

According to experts like Yoram Schweitzer and Farhana Ali (as cited by Galvin, 2006), women tend to be motivated by personal reasons more than those that influence men. Mia Bloom (as cited by Galvin, 2006), summarizes these as the four R's: Revenge, Redemption, Respect, and Relationship, and she gives examples: the loss of a loved one (usually the dominant male in their life - their husband, father, or brother), a need to reinvent themselves because of alleged or real sexual misconduct, an inability to conceive children or being considered not marriageable, a desire to improve the status of women in their society, proof that they are just as dedicated as the men to the Cause, and being the sisters, daughters, or wives of well-known terrorists.

Galvin (2006) also states that it is a clear number of motivations as well as roles that exist for the women in terrorism. As represented in a sample of diversity, Griset and Mahon (as cited by Galvin, 2006), there are four roles in which are played by female terrorists: sympathizers, those who provide support and resources, but are not truly involved in particular actions, spies, those that serve as decoys or messengers, though they are not usually engaged in violence, warriors, those who actually participate in violent activities, but are not decision makers, and the dominant forces, those who hold leadership roles, make decisions for the group, engage in violence, and safeguard and interpret the group's ideological stance.


The methods to writing this paper relied heavily on the access of secondary data that centered on the ideology of female terrorist in the Middle East. These scholarly journals were found using the databases that were available in the Benedict College Library typing in the phrase female terrorists and women terrorist that yielded scarce information, yet very valuable information. Information was also gathered from search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, typing in the words "female" and "terrorist" also did not yield as much information as one would have liked, but it found journals and papers that were written that focused on this phenomenon.

The specified journals were chosen only if their information centered on female terrorists and answered the questions that were to be answered by this paper. The information on general terrorism was gathered from books that were checked out of the Benedict College Library, and also borrowed from Benedict College staff in the Department of Criminal Justice. Reading through the books, information was found on the history of terrorism, along with a history of major attacks that were considered terrorist acts.


The questions concerning the profile, motivations, processes, and community views of female terrorists can be answered through the analysis of the published interviews of the four females, who participated in either an act of terrorism or were recruiting females to become suicide bombers. Each female's story is different from each other, allowing us to know that there are no two female terrorists are alike. Tatiana Menake, Wafa Idris, Samira Ahmed Jassim, and Malika el Aroud are the women that will be used for the findings. Each of these women are from different parts of the Middle East, and they are also from different terrorist organizations.


Tatiana Menake was considered to be a shy and soft-spoken twenty-seven year old woman that you could possibly have watched your kids (Goodwin, 2010). Wafa Idris was considered to be an "Angel of Mercy"; she worked as a volunteer first aider for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Ramallah, and was considered to be model young woman, a good friend, a loving daughter, and a social activist who was always helping her neighbors in times of troubles (Buzzer, 2002). Samira Ahmed Jassim is a fifty-one year old woman who was suspected of grooming rape victims to become female suicide bombers in Iraq. Malika el Aroud was a single mother, a custom that is frowned upon in her religion.


Menake had lost her mother at an early age to domestic violence. Her father would beat her mother every night while he was in a drunken stupor. After her mother died, at the age of seven, her father repeatedly raped her for four days straight during a drunken binge. She was finally rescued by her grandfather, and her father disappeared. When she turned fifteen, Menake's grandparents died, and she was reluctantly taken in by her aunt and uncle, who made it known that she was an unwanted burden. Two years later, in 2000, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) was facing a shortage of fighters. They then levied a human tax, and Tamil families were ordered to give up any member, regardless of gender, to the organization to be trained for combat. Menake's relatives gratefully gave her away for the cause.

Idris was a volunteer first aider with the Palestinian Red Crescent. She was a stretcher-bearer who went into the thick of the fighting every Friday to make a recovery of Palestinian's injured and sometimes dead, youth in the fighting around the city. She was hit twice in the past year by plastic-coated bullets fired by Israeli soldiers. That Sunday, Idris decided she wanted a different kind of life, one that was lethal in comparison to her volunteer job. She is thought to be the first woman suicide bomber to strike Israel.

Jassim was arrest under the suspicion of grooming rape victims to become female suicide victims. She is accused of recruiting more than eighty women to become human bombs, twenty eight who actually carried out their specified task (Haynes, 2009). She would then play on the shame associated with the victims of rape in the Iraqi society to convince them that to become a suicide bomber was the only way to escape and not bring shame to their families.

Aroud was a female recruiter, but not to the extremes as Jassim, but became a celebrity in her own way thanks to her first husband's martyrdom. Aroud first met her husband, Abdessattar, at a tram stop in Brussels. Before marriage he and she talked of "global jihad". Once married, he joined the "global jihad" to help bin Laden from the mountains of Afghanistan. While he was in Jalalabad, she went to be with him. While there he taught her how to protect herself the way the trainers were treating the men. On September 9, al Qaeda hit men killed Massoud. On September 12, after the 9/11 attack she was congratulated in the streets for being the wife of a martyr. She then devoted herself to promoting bin Laden's cause online.

Process of becoming a female terrorist

After being given away by her guardians, Menake was shipped to the LTTE training camp for seven months. Her home consisted of sleeping in tents and attending class in cement-block classrooms surrounded by dense jungle. They were banned from participating in alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and "unlawful sex", which includes anything ranging from masturbation to romantic relationships. They were forced to run, every morning at four in the morning, and they would run for a straight hour. She was placed into a weapons class, and to start out they were given sticks, just poles, to practice with. Then they were given Kalashnikovs, a type of submachine gun made in Russia, to continue practice. At the end of what the LTTE called basic training, Menake was separated from the rest of the other recruits, and dispatched to the intelligence-gathering camp. In 2002, Menake decided to become a suicide bomber, because she was afraid that a fall she had endured would make a paraplegic when she got older, and she thought "why live?"

For Idris there was no process to go through. She simply felt angry that her country was in an intifada, and with the progression of this war she became angrier