Women in terrorism
THIS refers to the report, ‘BRA women claimcarrying out bomb attack’ (March 25). A bomb exploded in a cafÃ© in the busyLiaquat Bazaar in Quettain which four people were injured and building of the cafÃ© was destroyed.
After the incident a woman called reporterson phone and identified herself as Gohar Bibi and claimed to be spokespersonfor the women’s wing of the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) and told them that hergroup had carried out the bomb attack.
This is the first incident of terrorisminvolving women in the history of Pakistan. It shows that terroristorganisations in Pakistanare now opening their ranks to new members: women. It is a strikingdevelopment. The new tactics of terror, the role of female operatives and howterrorist’s attitudes towards women have shaped and are now reshaping theterrorist cause. If this trend picks up in Pakistan, it will be disastrous.
Female terrorism is not new. One-third ofthe members of the Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are womenwho, in addition to suicide bomb missions, have duties on the battlefield, inthe kitchen, and in medical camps. The Chechen Black Widows female suicidebombers led 12 suicide attacks that killed 330 people in two years.
An Iraqi woman linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq attempted suicide at a hotel weddingreception in Jordan, andother reports of Zarqawi-linked perpetrators have surfaced in Baghdad and Fallujah.
In the Palestinian territories, the groupsHamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad witnessed a surge in female bombers duringthe intifadahs (resistance movement). Syrian nationalists and Kurdishseparatists operate in this way, and women in Uzbekistan,Turkey, Lebanon, and Egypt have also joined the terrorranks
Women have participated in all aspects ofterrorism activity, but for many years there was no mass female involvement intwo lines of action: working with informers and committing suicide terroristacts. In the early 20th century the situation changed: suicide bombings began toincreasingly involve women.
In the 1940s, rebels in India sentwomen wearing grenades into British positions. However, the large-scaleinvolvement of female suicide bombers was noted only in Sri Lanka.
Female members of the Hezbollahorganisation also committed terrorist acts against Israel since the mid-1980s. In the1990s, a number of terrorist groups decided to mass-produce this phenomenon andbegan recruiting young women to become suicide bombers.
In 1974 Brian Jenkins, an Americanresearcher on terrorism, concluded: “Terrorism is theatre.” Every singleterrorist who took hostages wanted the right to speak to the media or live onthe air.
About 95 per cent of the time terroristscall media outlets after attacks and take responsibility for the crime. Femaleterrorists always enjoyed more attention from the media and the public. Thisprovides terrorists with better propaganda opportunities – they can promotetheir organisations, goals and ideologies.
In addition, preparation for such terroristacts is relatively simple: a female suicide bomber does not need to be taughtabout warfare or clandestineness. She is basically a single-use cheap weapon.
Women are considered to be better suitedfor this role – easier to control and brainwash. The security forces and thepolice pay less attention to women. It is easier for women to hide bombs.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam usedfemale suicide bombers in 70 per cent of their attacks. The Kurd Labour Partyoften sent women feigning pregnancy on such assignments. In many countries withstrong nationalist and separatist movements, terrorism has become a ‘familybusiness’.
There are numerous examples of severalgenerations of one family being involved in terrorist activity. In theseregions (for example, Ireland and Palestine), active involvement of women interrorism acts, which was earlier condemned by families and societies, isbeginning to become permissible and even approved. Maoists, anarchists andother left-leaning groups, on the other hand, criticise the male-dominatedtraditions and attract women who are unhappy with societal roles.
It is time for our political leadership tounderstand that rights of women to control her reproduction and to lead publiclives have been critical to the advance of modern civilisation. Women’s rightsneed to be not only the agenda of an advanced democracy, but should lead theagenda.
SQN LDR (r) S.AUSAF HUSAIN, Karachi