European Female Jihadists in Syria: Exploring an Under-Researched Topic
The number of young Western women travelling abroad to join the "Islamic State" (IS) continues to increase. However, little is known about these women, including their motivations and roles within organisations such as IS. With this Background Note, Research Fellow Prof. Dr. Edwin Bakker and Ms. Seran de Leede provide preliminary answers and explain what is known so far.
In a Background Note of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, Research Fellows prof. dr. Edwin Bakker and ms. Seran de Leede provide preliminary answers and explain what is known so far. They show that the phenomenon of women travelling to war zones to participate in a foreign struggle is not new. The numbers for Syria and Iraq are, however, beyond any comparison. Bakker and de Leede estimate the number of European women in IS-controlled areas at a few hundred, most of them from Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Based on previous research, government reports, newspaper articles, and interviews with relatives of girls in Syria, their background note aims to distinguish key motivations and the specific roles for these women who have joined IS and other jihadist groups. These insights might help to provide starting points for preventing or managing this specific phenomenon that adds to the worries in many European countries about people – men or women, young or old – joining the violent jihad.