Anyone can be a terrorist, irrespective of age, gender or other ‘characteristic’.
MOSCOW, RUSSIA — We all normally associate the female sex with nurturing. The reasons for this are of course not surprising. Women carry fetuses inside them for nine months. Women go through the birth process and are often the primary caregivers, at least in the first weeks and months, although that has changed a lot (in the West) in my lifetime.
As a result women are not normally associated with violence, of any variety. I am sure there are statistics to back this up somewhere. It is not that women (or girls) are NOT completely absent from crimes in which bodily harm is involved: it’s just that the male sex is responsible for more.
The same goes for terrorism by the way. Most groups are led by, and consist of, men, not women. When was the last time you saw a video put out by Al Qaeda, or Islamic State, or Al Shabaab, or far right violent extremists for that matter, featured women prominently? Go ahead, have a look, I’ll wait…
On this day in 2010, female suicide bombers are thought to have been behind an attack on the Moscow metro during the morning rush hour in which 38 people were killed.
There are exceptions of course. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka were well known for their use of female suicide bombers. And we also had a German left-wing terrorist group in the 1970s and 1980s, the Baader-Meinhof gang, (or Rote Armee Faktion) in which one of the eponymous leaders was Ulrike Meinhof. So it does happen.
Most of the time Islamist extremist groups do not employ female cadres for a simple reason: most Islamist extremists are seriously misogynist. There are some interesting exceptions though. One of those is found in the central Asian area known as the Caucasus. In fact, there are so many female actors that they have received their own nickname: the black widows (believed to have come from the fact that many have husbands killed by Russian forces in Chechnya) or shahidka (shahid is Arabic for ‘martyr’).
2010 Moscow Metro bombings
On this day in 2010 female suicide bombers are thought to have been behind an attack on the Moscow metro during the morning rush hour in which 38 people were killed and more than 60 injured. The first explosion tore through the second carriage of a train as it stood at central Lubyanka station waiting for morning rush hour commuters to board; the second came at Park Kultury, which is six stops away from Lubyanka and struck at the back of the train as people were getting on board.
I was in the middle of the train when somewhere in the first or second carriage there was a loud blast. I felt the vibrations reverberate through my body. People were yelling like hell. There was a lot of smoke and within about two minutes everything was covered in smoke.
No group claimed responsibility for the attacks but Russian security services believed the bombers were linked to militant groups in the North Caucasus region. Past suicide bombings in the capital had been carried out by or blamed on Islamist rebels fighting for independence from Russia in Chechnya.
In the end I think we need to broaden our understanding when it comes to terrorism. Yes, the fairer sex can participate. After all, isn’t there a phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”?