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‘Rising’ number of females being recruited by terrorist organisations — experts

‘One in five foreign fighters who travel to join Daesh is female’

By Rana Husseini - Feb 07,2019 - Last updated at Feb 07,2019

DEAD SEA — A Canadian security expert on Wednesday warned that an increasing number of women are being recruited to join terrorist groups worldwide.

“One in five foreign fighters who travel from Europe to the Middle East to join or fight with ISIS [Daesh] are females,” said Jacqueline O’Neill, a global fellow from Wilson Centre at Canada Institute.

“Women are often recruited by other women either in person... or are recruited online by other women using strategies targeting women,” added O’Neill, who was speaking as part of an expert panel on best practices for the Jordanian National Action Plan (JONAP) to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

The action plan’s implementation was officially launched by Interior Minister Samir Mubaidin earlier on Wednesday during a two-day conference held at the Dead Sea.

O’Neill, a former president of The Institute for Inclusive Security, said Boko Haram — a terror group in north-eastern Nigeria — also used women for their “terrorist activities” and female recruits’ numbers are on the rise.

“At least two-thirds of the Boko Haram suicide bombers, and there are several hundreds of them, are women and the majority of those are girls, which means we have child soldiers,” O’Neill pointed out.

The Canadian security expert added that terrorist groups realise that women are “more likely to trust other women in certain circumstances”.

“Women also understand that other women have different motivators for wanting to join forces or serve. In some instances women want to join armed groups because they feel marginalised in their own home,” O’Neill told the gathering.

That is why, she added, “some women want to assume a leadership role [with terrorist groups], although this is not the case in many instances”.

In Colombia, O’Neill said, 40 per cent of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are women.

“FARC recently reached a deal with the Colombian government, which is a big deal, because most of these combatants that need to be reintegrated into the communities are women,” O’Neill said.

According to a report published in The Guardian in June 2018, a NATO official was quoted as saying many women join terrorist groups because “they are in dire need of food and water”.

The newspaper said women’s involvement in terror is not always political and “sometimes, it’s the simple fact that they need to feed their children”.

Turning to Jordan, O’Neill praised the Kingdom’s role in its work on JONAP saying the country “is clearly a leader both in the region and globally”.

“There is a lot that the rest of the world can learn from Jordan’s experience because the Kingdom did not just take a template from somewhere else and just cut and paste a few words. Jordanians really took their time and slowed down the process in order to do it well, and it made a huge difference,” O’Neill told The Jordan Times following the conclusion of the session.

“I hope that Jordan will continue to be vocal about what it is doing with regards to JONAP regardless of the challenges that the country might face,” she said.

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