‘Till Martyrdom Do Us Part’ – Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon

By Erin Marie Saltman and Melanie Smith

The following is the introduction to the latest Women and Extremism report from ISD. A link to the full report can be found here. Launched 28 May 2015

Although often assumed to be passive agents, women have played significant roles in a number of contemporary terrorist organizations. Violent extremist groups across the political and ideological spectrum have utilised female forces for a range of activities including logistics, recruitment, political safeguarding, operations, suicide bombing and combat. However, the recent unprecedented surge in female recruits to the terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS) has brought this phenomenon into sharp focus. For many there remain misperceptions and misunderstandings concerning the role women play within these violent networks, often paired with engendered responses to the radicalisation of women. By analysing how terrorist organisations choose to utilise women, we are able to better understand the decision-making processes of terrorists and the inner-workings of the organization itself. Continue reading