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Empower women to help counter extremism, says UN

Thousands of women in Iraq and Nigeria have been abducted by terrorist groups [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 September, 2015

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A UN official has called for the need to empower females to counter the violence by extremist groups in Iraq and Nigeria who are kidnapping and recruiting women.

Increased attention needs to be given to women so they can be empowered to actively help counter terrorism and violent extremism around the world, a senior United Nations counter-terrorism official said.

“Terrorist groups such as Daesh [the Islamic State group], Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are becoming increasingly creative in their strategies by also including women, who take a more active role in their criminal enterprise,” said Jean-Paul Laborde, the Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED).

     Terrorist organisations are gradually using women to recruit other women to act as suicide bombers

“Until recently, terrorism has been viewed predominantly as a male problem,” Laborde stated.

“In reality, terrorist organisations are gradually using women to recruit other women to act as suicide bombers.”

He further explained that many do not even know they are recruited to serve this purpose.

Thousands of women in Iraq, Kenya and Nigeria have been abducted by terrorist groups.

In recent weeks suicide bombers, many of them women, have staged attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. 

Hanaa Edwar, a women’s activist from Iraq who underlined how the absence of security and stability in her country since 2003 has created weak state institutions and chaos, as well as influenced the growth of local militias.

“Daesh, the so-called Islamic State, occupied about one-third of our country in June 2015. This was a very hard moment in our Iraqi history, especially as the suffering of people increased every day,” Hanaa said, adding that between 2003 and 2014, around 14,000 women in Iraq were killed.

She explained that the scale of gender-based crimes has been horrible, with sexual violence being used as a tool in the terrorists’ policy; as a result, many women have committed suicide due to the absence of safety, human rights and institutions to seek care.

The Islamic State group has been running an international market where Christian and Yazidi women are sold as sexual slaves in Iraq.

Jinan, 18, a Yazidi, was captured in early 2014 and held by IS extremists for three months before she managed to flee.

"They tortured us, tried to forcefully convert us. If we refused we were beaten, chained outdoors in the sun, forced to drink water with dead mice in it. Sometimes they threatened to torture us with electricity," she said.

"These men are not human. They only think of death, killing. They take drugs constantly. They seek vengeance against everyone. They say that one day Islamic State will rule over the whole world."

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