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Sirens of Death: Role of Women in Terrorism Past, Present, and Future

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice and Security Volume: 8 Issue: 3,4 Dated: December 2006 Pages: 332-339
Carole Garrison
Date Published
December 2006
8 pages
This paper examines the history of female involvement in terrorism and the recent increase in the use of women in terrorist attacks, with attention to the role of gender in contemporary terrorist suicide bombings and its implications for prevention measures.
Historically, terrorist activities, particularly those based in Islamic extremism, have involved mostly men, both in planning and executing the attacks; however, in recent years, women have had an increasing role in terrorist activities. Although female suicide bombers have made media headlines recently, female suicide bombers are not a new phenomenon; they were used in suicide bombings in the latter part of the 20th century. The U.S. Government's 1999 report on terrorist profiles, concluded there are three main categories of female terrorists: practical, efficient, and unemotional women; dedicated, ruthless women with an inner strength; and women who are single-minded. Women also are perceived in most societies as having a revulsion for violence and killing. This gives them an advantage in receiving less attention at security checkpoints and at public sites that may be targeted for bombing. Women can also conceal bombs by appearing to be pregnant when suicide bombs are worn around the waist. Female terrorists have repeatedly proven themselves in terrorist combat operations and in leadership roles. Societies throughout the world are beginning to recognize that women do and will continue to have a significant role in terrorist operations. 16 references