If I were to ask you what a ‘typical’ jihadi terrorist looks like, what would you answer? I am guessing the following are possible answers:
- ‘scary looking’
- someone who yells ‘Allahu akbar’
And there are ample examples of those who fit some if not all of these characteristics, so you would not be 100% wrong. But, as I have been saying for close to two decades, there is no profile. I wish there were as this would make the jobs of our security intelligence and law enforcement agencies easier.
So while it is true that most terrorists are male and young, not all are. Some are older. And some are female. A number of terrorist groups have enlisted women to carry out attacks on their behalf.
Maxim restaurant suicide bombing
A good example is what happened on this day in 2003. Twenty-one people were killed, including three children and a baby girl, and 60 wounded in a suicide bombing carried out by a female terrorist in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa, Israel. The bomber, Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old lawyer from Jenin, managed to get past Maxim’s security guard before blowing herself up in the middle of the restaurant. The security guard was killed in the attack, along with three other Israeli Arab employees of the restaurant.
The blast devastated the restaurant, of joint Jewish-Arab ownership, on Hahagana Boulevard near the southern entrance of the coastal city. It was packed mostly with regular Saturday customers. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.
Note the phrase “managed to get past the security guard”.
Why? Was he asleep at the wheel? Was she very good at what she did? Or did some pre-conceived notion lead the guard to dismiss the possibility that a woman could do such a thing? I do not have any answers to those questions.
Even if this attack took place more than 15 years ago and involved another conflict in another day it resonates today as we collectively discuss what to do with Islamic State (IS) female members. Rather than reduce them to ‘mothers and wives’ we need to see them for what they are: terrorists. They need to answer for their crimes.
What with all the efforts to recognise women as equals in society it is important to remember this goes for terrorism as well.