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Basma Barakat

Women play critical role in jihadist groups

More than 3,000 women are thought to be fighting in Syria and Iraq [AFP]

Date of publication: 1 June, 2015

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Feature: Women are apparently experts in recruiting new members to armed organisations via social media, reports Basma Barakat.

Women are playing an important role recruiting others to join radical groups, it has emerged. They are also thought to provide logistical support, smuggling money and weapons.

Figures recently released show that more than 3,000 women are active on the battlefronts of Syria and Iraq. This includes 700 Tunisian women who have joined al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group, according to unofficial sources.

Badra Gaaloul, director of a security think-tank in Tunis, told al-Araby al-Jadeed women play an important role because they are good at persuading both women and men to join these groups.

"Some women join the jihad because of their families, others through their own choice," said Monia Arfaoui, a journalist who covers radical organisations. 

There are 70 female fighters in the Khansa Battalion in Syria, a unit of female jihadist fighters, a quarter of whom are Tunisians, said Arfaoui. 

Faisal al-Sharif, a military expert, told al-Araby al-Jadeed radical groups were persuading women to join them by arguing it was important to fight against modernists or secularists. 

"Women in terrorist groups do not have any leadership role. They are seen as support operatives and not as combatants," he added.

Abdul-Sattar al-Sahbani, professor of sociology, told al-Araby al-Jadeed women who are less educated are easier to lure into radical groups.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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