In foreign policy and development circles, experts have for some time been warning of the rising impact extremism – particularly in an Islamic context – has on women and the dangers of simplifying their roles in the spread of radical ideology.

At Women & Girls, we saw an opportunity to delve deeper into what we think is an under-explored phenomenon. Looking at parts of the world where extremism is having the biggest impact on women’s lives, we spoke to experts, former extremists, and citizens who devote their lives to fighting radicalism.

We’ll be adding articles as the series develops.

I LOST MY SON TO ISIS

One mother’s story about how her son got recruited into the Islamic State.

WOMEN & JIHAD: GLOBAL HOTSPOTS

Women are victims and perpetrators of Islamic extremism the world over, but media often deal with each example in isolation. Our series brings many of these stories together, giving an overview of the global trends and exploring the potential for joint solutions.

Two Women, Different Worlds

Yasmin Mulbocus: reformed recruiter for the Islamic State

Now a mentor for girls at risk of radicalization, Mulbocus was once a recruiter for a banned Islamic terrorist organization. She tells us she joined as an idealistic teen drawn by the group’s utopian vision of the future.

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Kenza Isnasni: ACTIVIST WHO CHOSE PEACE OVER ANGER

For some, being the target of racism can lead to radicalization. For Kenza Isnasni, it did the opposite. The killing of her parents by a right-wing radical could have driven her to anger, but instead it inspired her to fight extremism in all its forms.

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BACKGROUND

an in-depth look at the diverse ways in which women are affected by radicalization – as victims, perpetrators and peacemakers

Last year, on the first weekend in September, a car was found with its hazard lights flashing near Notre Dame Cathedral in the center of Paris. The Peugeot 607, which had no number plate, contained six full gas cylinders and several documents written in Arabic. A few days later, three women aged 19, 23 and 39 were arrested in a small town 18 miles (29km) southeast of Paris. Police say all three were radicalized by Islamic extremists and were known to anti-terrorism investigators. Officers later produced a letter they say was written by one of the women that pledged allegiance to ISIS. The letter said the planned attack on Notre Dame was revenge for an airstrike that had killed the group’s deputy leader.

Three days after the arrests in France, on the anniversary of 9/11, three young women aged between 19 and 25 walked into a police station in Mombasa, Kenya, one allegedly brandishing a knife and another throwing a petrol bomb. All three were killed by police, who claim sisters Maimuna and Ramla Abdulrahman and a school friend, Tasnim Yakubu, were wearing suicide vests under their black abayas. A letter allegedly written by the sisters pledging allegiance to ISIS has surfaced, but has not been independently verified.

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THE PROBLEM


Kosovo Looks to ISIS Wives in Order to Fight Extremism

Most Kosovar men who travel to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS are accompanied by their wives. We talk to counterterrorism experts who believe these women could be the key to challenging violent extremism.

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‘We Didn’t Raise Terrorists’: How One Mother Lost Her Son to ISIS

Azizah Sayah’s son died in Syria after joining the ranks of the so-called Islamic State. She tells her story and shares her mission to prevent other French young people from leaving to fight in radical Islamist movements.

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‘He Was the Love of My Life’: Why Women Marry Into Boko Haram

Since it began its military campaign against the Nigerian government in 2009, the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of girls. But some young women join the group voluntarily, raising questions about how to help them when they come back home.

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Selling the Militant Dream: ‘You Come Here to Live, Not to Die’

How ISIS depicts women in its official propaganda tells us a lot about the role it sees for female members of the group. We speak with researcher Charlie Winter about the power of the extremist promise.

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Freed from ISIS, Yazidi Women Remain Trapped by Trauma

Some of those working with Yazidi former slaves say they have never before seen such severe psychological trauma. Experts tell us there are not enough resources to provide long-term care to all of the survivors, who could take a lifetime to recover.

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Former Boko Haram Captives Face Stigma, Often From Other Survivors

Escape from Boko Haram doesn’t always mean the end of the ordeal, as former militants’ ‘wives’ are often rejected and verbally abused by other female abductees.

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In Jordan, Women More Vulnerable to Effects of Extremism, Says Report

From our archives: As Jordan struggles with rising extremism, a U.N. report suggests women are much more vulnerable than men to the effects of radicalization, such as an increase in domestic violence and being blamed if their children join an extremist group.

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THE SOLUTION


From East London to Kenya: The Women Waging War on Extremism

The role of women in countering violent extremism has gained momentum over the past few years. We look at the people and programs challenging the male-dominated security scene and offering new ways to combat the threat of radicalization.

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Escape From ISIS: Freedom and Justice for Yazidi Women and Girls

ISIS has captured, enslaved and abused thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi minority in Iraq. We meet the Yazidi women and men living abroad who are working to free the captives and hold the perpetrators to account.

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More Than Just Mothers: The Changing Roles of Women in Extremism

Fauziya Abdi represents a network of women’s organizations in Kenya working to prevent violent extremism. She says women’s increasingly diverse roles within radical groups call for a more sophisticated approach to the problem.

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The Covert Project to Help Mothers Push Back Against the Taliban

We look at how one charity in Pakistan’s Swat Valley worked undercover with mothers of young Taliban recruits to help them spot signs of radicalization and find ways to intervene before their sons carried out acts of violence.

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Why Women Are Crucial to Fighting Radicalization in Afghanistan

Mariam Safi is one of just a handful of researchers focusing on the role of women in post-conflict peace building in Afghanistan. She tells us about the pivotal role women can play in combating the Taliban.

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With a Game of Basketball, Girls Dribble Round Extremism in Somalia

When al-Shabab controlled Mogadishu, women could be punished for playing sports. We meet the young female ballplayers who are challenging lingering Islamist ideology in the city.

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Female Peacekeepers Fight Militants and Prejudice in Somalia

The number of women joining military and police ranks across Africa is rising. We meet the female peacekeepers in Somalia who are taking on al-Shabab, both on the front lines and in the battle against extremist ideology.

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To Fight Violent Extremism, Security Sector Must Include More Women

In order to tackle violent extremism, women must be better represented in the security sector – including at the highest levels, says Camilla Bognoe of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

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Ten Women Leaders in Counter-Extremism

these women have committed to combating the spread of extremist ideology

They are activists, psychologists and politicians, from Austria to Somalia, often working directly with perpetrators, potential recruits or victims of terrorism. Meet 10 women who are leading the way in efforts to understand the roots of radicalization and the strategies to stopping it in its tracks.

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FROM THE EXPERTS

At a recent panel on women and extremism co-hosted by Women & Girls and The Frontline Club in London, we asked the speakers about what drives women to violent jihad and what can be done to stop the trend.

How do extremist groups recruit young women?

How do we stop young women from being recruited by extremist groups?

Why do women from the West want to join extremist organizations?

What role do women play in extremist organizations?

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CREDITS

Senior Reporter – Flora Bagenal
Senior Editor – Jumana Farouky
Community Editor – Jihii Jolly
Technical Editor – JC Medina
Managing Editor – Deborah Kan