The Other Half of ISIS: The Terrorist Women’s Cells

By Souad Sbai

Three British citizens created a women ISIS terrorist cell, and were preparing to attack the British Museum in London. Their plan was discovered and they were arrested before becoming the perpetrators of the massacre of many tourists. ISIS has always reserved in its ranks a large space for jihadist women, such as the Al Khansa Brigade in Syria.

In recent months, the “Averroes” Study Center of Rome organized a conference on the phenomenon of the so called “female jihadism”. This is still an unclear phenomenon, almost unknown to many, but in reality it is a deeply rooted one. That was a very meaningful meeting, which becomes ever more relevant day after day.

A few days ago, the London Criminal Court has condemned three British citizens, all belonging to the same family, for creating a female ISIS cell in the UK. As reported by the British media, the three women were planning to carry out an attack against the British Museum: the goal was to hit the numerous tourists who visit the famous museum every day.

The women were “caught” by the British secret services. Some agents infiltrated the ISIS jihadists and found that their suspicions were not ungrounded since the three women, recruited by ISIS through the Internet, wanted to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

“Women’s jihadistm”: a phenomenon to which the media does not give the importance it deserves.

We cannot forget the “Al Khansa Brigade” created in Raqqa when ISIS was at the peak of its power. This Brigade was a kind of religious police made up of selected women in charge of controlling the strict compliance with the fundamentalists precepts by the women living in the territory of the Islamic state: from the obligation to wear the niqab to the prohibition of going out without being accompanied and other thousands prohibitions.

Not to mention the European foreign fighters. Perhaps, the most famous of them was the Italian Maria Giulia Sergio or “Fátima.” She became a jihadist in Italy after marrying an extremist, and then traveled to Syria where, according to the news that came to us, she met her death.

But there are many more foreign fighters, such as the French citizen Melina Boughedir, who is currently in a prison in Iraq, and has been condemned by a French court to life imprisonment. She went to Iraq to fight with ISIS pushed by her husband or, as some documentation proved during the trial, by her own choice after an intense process of radicalization.

Women play an important role in international jihadism. They are not only the wives of martyrs and militiamen. They are real masterminds managing the jihadist networks in the Middle East and especially in Europe. They still continue to pull the strings of what remains of this mechanism, in collaboration with the proselytizing network of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist centers disseminated throughout Europe.

Their ability to infiltrate society has made these women for a long time almost invisible to the authorities and to the media. Thanks to this they were able to give birth to the phenomenon of the “women’s jihadism.” A phenomenon that despite being a decisive factor in the fight against international radicalism, it still is an unexplored field.