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IS puts women on front line for first time, propaganda video shows

A female IS fighter was featured in a propaganda video released this week [YouTube]

Date of publication: 9 February, 2018

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In the Islamic State group's latest propaganda video, women are seen for the first time on the front lines in battle.
Female members of the Islamic State group (IS) are fighting on the front line, a propaganda video has shown,  signs that the group is becoming 'desperate' to bolster its declining ranks.

In a new propaganda video released by IS, more than five armed women are seen entering the battle with a truck flying the IS flag and fighting alongside male militants in what appear to be clashes along the Euphrates river in Syria.

Referencing the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a voiceover narrates in both English and Arabic, hailing the men "rising in response to the call of jihad…and following them, the chaste mujahid woman journeying to her Lord with the garments of purity and faith, seeking revenge for her religion and for the honour of her sisters imprisoned by the apostate Kurds".

"They launch the battle to avenge the chaste women – it is a campaign that commences a new era of conquest."

Iraq declared victory against IS in December, more than three years after the extremist group seized a third of its territory and swathes of neighbouring Syria, declaring a "caliphate" ruling over millions of people.

As the ground fight against the IS group nears its end, with the extremist group losing large swathes of land, the group's territory is now reduced to a small strip of the Euphrates and small areas of Syria and Iraq.

There are less than 1,000 IS fighters estimated remaining in Iraq and Syria.

Nikita Malik, director of the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society, told The Independent that IS' falling numbers means it is "having to rely on every single person".

"It shows an element of desperation. It's a big deviation from their initial propaganda that women were homemakers who should take a secondary role."

While previously, there were isolated reports of female IS members in combat, Wednesday’s video is the first time IS publicly acknowledged women roles in the group.

Had this come out a year or two ago, Malik explained, when the group was at their peak it would have shown a change of tactic. The admission now however "seems to be the last resort because they don’t have enough people," and shows "weakness." 

Another difference to the newer propaganda videos is IS' lack of call for extremists to travel to the "caliphate" – in line with their shrinking territory control. Instead, the terror group has called on its followers to carry out global terror attacks.

IS position on women is unlikely to have changed, explained Malik, adding: "There's no evidence to show these women have actually been trained."

Women were prohibited before from fighting on the battlefield, and encouraged instead to marry fighters, spread propaganda and to have as many children as possible in order to populate the so-called Islamic State.

A change in policy was hinted in October, when an article in an Arabic-edition said: "Today, in the context of the war against the Islamic State, it has become necessary for female Muslims to fulfil their duties on all fronts in supporting the mujahideen in this battle," adding, that women should "prepare themselves to defend their religion by sacrificing themselves for Allah".

Iraqi forces have forcibly displaced more than 200 families of suspected Islamic State group members, as well as destroyed their homes and used physical violence, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Sunday.

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