For men fighting the war, women were 'easy targetsÂ' -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

For men fighting the war, women were ‘easy targetsÂ’

Women donated cash, jewellery and even young children to the Taliban movement

SWAT: While men were directly involved in violence in Swat, the valley’s women supported the movement in whichever capacity they could — cooking, cleaning and donating.

The women of Nekpikhel district in particular and the entire valley in general were active members of the militancy movement as they appeared ‘easy targets’ for the militants to preach their ideology.

A resident of Peochar Valley, whose father was a Talib commander, told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that in the militants’ training centres, women cooked and cleaned for them, washed their clothes, and many even married them. A number of women also volunteered to become suicide bombers. Some women were said to have rebelled against the men in their families and several divorce cases were reported.

Analysts believe that one reason many women took to the ideology was due to isolation. Many women in Swat take over families while their husbands are away from home for long periods of time in order to earn a livelihood.

“A large number of men from Swat are abroad. This means their wives are all on their own with young children. In such situations, they [women] are easily swayed by emotional religious sermons,” says a moderate religious scholar from Mingora.

He said these women supported the movement with all their heart and wealth. “They even donated their jewellery and sent young children to be hired as suicide bombers.”

Swat-based analyst Fazal Maula told The Express Tribune that women were specifically targeted by the militants. “A sort of competition developed. Women were especially motivated and addressed in radio sermons. Donations using fake names were initially announced only to attract women,” Maula says. However, he says, there wasn’t any practical involvement by women other than donations.

“The Taliban movement led by Fazlullah was well organised. In a very scientific way, they exploited women. Keeping in mind that they were confined within the four walls of their homes, Fazlullah used the radio to get to them,” activist Ihsanullah Khan says.

In Swat, the literacy rate for women is also lower than that for men and many believe this made them softer targets. “Illiteracy matters as women from remote areas got entangled in this mess due to a lack of education and understanding,” Maula says.

Apart from illiteracy and isolation, lack of proper religious knowledge also pushed women towards supporting the hardline movement, says renowned social activist Ziauddin Yousufzai. “Traditionally, women are marginalised and socially isolated. Women believed that Mullah Fazlullah [chief of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s Swat chapter] was a Mujahid of Islam. This was because women in Swat are brought up in a purely religious environment, which was exploited by the militants,” Yousufzai says.

The view was supported by Nazli, a resident of Charbagh district. “No woman practically participated in the militancy but they were misled by Fazlullah as they were convinced that he was working for the welfare of Islam,” she said.
Source: The Express Tribune