Social media may be responsible for women and teen girls uprooting themselves from homes across the world to join ISIS militant extremists. The number of missing women and girls has reached the hundreds. Originally reported as missing, they reemerge in Syria and Iraq married to extremists of the Islamic State.
Teenage girls 14 and 15 years old are arriving in Syria prepared to marry militants, give birth to their children, and align with fighters. Some of them have armed themselves. It is by way of social media that they are recruited.
Ten percent of recruits linking up with the Islamic State are girls and women from Australia, Europe, and North America. Twenty-five female recruits have come from France out of the 63 who left the region. France’s female recruits make up the highest number leaving any region. France security agents suspect another 60 are considering doing the same.
Louis Caprioli says the females are lured by the notion of “supporting brother fighters.” They feel compelled to have children to “continue the spread of Islam.” Caprioli formerly headed Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire, a French security agency. He explains that women whose husbands die for the cause will be exalted as wives of martyrs.
Fifty British women and girls have joined Isis according to counter-terrorism experts. Five of those women have gone to fight in Syria. Many might be based in the Syrian city of Raqqa which is currently monopolized by Isis.
Twins Salma and Zahra Halane, 16, left their Chorlton, Manchester home in July following their Syria-bound brother. Their parents were not aware they had gone and reported them missing.
The sisters had passed the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs) and continued studies at sixth form college. But the daughters of Somalian refugees ran from their Britain home during the night. Now, they are reported to be wives of Isis fighters. Zahra’s social media account depicts her veiled carrying an AK-47. She is posed kneeling before the ISIS Flag.
According to the Kings College researchers, many of the women are ages 16-24. The researchers making these identification work at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization. They report that the women are university graduates leaving behind concerned families.
This was confirmed when early this month, Britain native, Aqsa Mahmood, wrote in her blog post many women from the university who had promising paths, loving families, and caring friends had forgone luxuries of the “Dunyah material world” to join ISIS militants. In the blog, she swears that they do not want the blessed and comfortable lives they had.
Over 40 German women have radicalized and left Germany for ISIS in Syria as well as Iraq. The trend of teenagers leaving without their parents’ permission appears to be growing through social media outlets. The youngest of the ISIS women and teen recruits via social media is confirmed to be 13 years of age. The women have gotten to know the young militants they endeavor to marry over the internet. They consider it romantic to run off and marry the young males.
Austrian teenage friends, Sabrina Selimovic, 15, and Samra Kesinovic, 16, left Vienna for Syria. Austrian Institute for International Politics director, Heinz Garner, considers their case the “tip of the iceberg” as 14 women and girls are assumed to have gone off to fight.
Women and girls from the United States have also joined Syrian ISIS fighters. While a senior intelligence official released a statement saying those numbers are not available, counter-terrorism expert, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, confirms U.S. women have gone off to Syria. He does not consider the number to be an epidemic but of concern.
While little is known about what is motivating the young women and girls, many are concerned that fantasy is enrapturing them. Ideas of warriors, war, and even the beheadings and throat-cuttings are likely attracting women who seek adventure.
Depending on the countries from which the women come, they may feel more important, respected, and as though they have purpose. They do not grasp the gravity of the conflict.
Some women believe they are participating in humanitarian efforts and are taking along young children. And the role the social media is playing is a crucial one.
Some women and girls have used social media to display their allegiance to ISIS. They have posted pictures of their being armed weaponry grenades and carrying severed heads. But the experiences that the young naïve women seek are the very reason some female ISIS militants have deserted.
Syrian native “Khadija” uses an alias to protect herself after she deserted. She originally joined the Syrian uprising when demonstrations were harmless. The educated woman had feared losing her soul when the movement turned violent. But charmed by a Tunisian she met online, Khadija returned to cause having been recruited under false pretenses. Before long, she was relocating her family to Raqqa and joining an all-female police brigade for ISIS.
After witnessing crucifixions and beheadings like the ones captured in social media photos, she again had a change of heart. She also witnessed the women recruits being endangered by the very men they would marry. The local and foreign fighters would sexually assault the recruits and treat them brutally. When Khadija was pressured by her commander to marry, she fled leaving her family behind.
The women recruits are not exposed through social media to what Khadijah experienced. To portray a positive and enchanting lifestyle, recruiters balanced gruesome photos with ones of sunsets and restaurants. They do this to entice more women.
Massachusetts University security studies professor, Mia Bloom, says the recruitment campaign has Disney-esque qualities. Bloom, the author of Bombshell Women and Terrorism, also says that financial incentives, i.e. travel expenses and child-bearing compensation, are offered to the women.
Across several countries, teen girls and women recruits are uprooting themselves to join ISIS militant extremists as a result of social media campaigns. Hundreds are missing only to reemerge in Syria and Iraq as wives of the Islamic State extremists.
By Charice Long