Al-Qaeda recruiting women for 'jihad' in Syria: reports

A Syrian opposition fighter trains young women in the city of Aleppo in September 2013. Recent reports indicate al-Qaeda is recruiting women to fight in the country. [Karam al-Masri/AFP]

A Syrian opposition fighter trains young women in the city of Aleppo in September 2013. Recent reports indicate al-Qaeda is recruiting women to fight in the country. [Karam al-Masri/AFP]

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Al-Qaeda-linked groups are recruiting women to go to Syria to offer themselves to men fighting in the ranks of jihadist groups, in a phenomenon dubbed "sex jihad", journalists and activists told Al-Shorfa.

Others are being enlisted to fight alongside the men, they said.

In northern Lebanon, a military unit called "Al-Nasser Salaheddine Brigade" is working with individuals allied to al-Qaeda's Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) to recruit women to fight in Syria, Lebanese daily Assafir reported September 14th.

From Tunisia, girls have travelled to Syria for "sex jihad" and returned home pregnant by foreign fighters who are battling the regular Syrian army, Tunisian Interior Minister Lutfi ben Jeddou told the National Constituent Assembly on September 19th.

"The female sexual jihadists are between 17 and 30 years old and some of them are high school students," said Tunisian attorney and head of the Association for the Relief of Tunisians Abroad Badis Koubakji. "The common denominator among most of them is that they have recently become religious and have fallen victim to religious brainwashing as a result of joining private religious online forums or groups within certain mosques in Tunisia."

Faisal al-Ahmed, a media activist from Syria's Aleppo told Al-Shorfa there have been women fighters in the ranks of Islamist militant groups in the country in the past few months.

Many Syrian women have carried arms since the start of the conflict in order to protect their families, but "what is noteworthy about this issue recently is that all the women fighting alongside the militant groups wear the niqab and are rarely seen in public," he said. "They are found in military locations in Aleppo and its suburbs."

Tunisian journalist Hanan Zabis, who works at French-language magazine Réalités, told Al-Shorfa that "sex jihad" began to emerge in Tunisia towards the end of 2011, when young Tunisian men started heading for Syria to perform "jihad".

"Since then, some Tunisian newspapers and websites started reporting about girls going to Syria," she said. "At the beginning, it was thought they were going with their husbands but then it was revealed they were traveling on their own for the purpose of 'sex jihad'."

Such women are subjected to brainwashing at some educational institutes and mosques as well as through social media websites, Zabis said.

"Notably, most of these girls are minors, which makes it easy to manipulate them and often, their families know nothing about their plans to travel to Syria," she said.

"The issue of 'sex jihad' did not surface until after dozens of girls returned to Tunisia, pregnant or infected with sexually transmitted diseases," Zabis said. "Some were arrested for the purposes of investigation and to find out who helped them travel."

Al-Qaeda seeks to disseminate its ideology

"Al-Qaeda benefits from any human resources it can get," said al-Qaeda affairs specialist Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem Ahmed, who is retired from the Egyptian army. "In addition to men, the organisation recruits male teenagers and boys as well as women, who have become an important branch of this terrorist organisation."

Female al-Qaeda recruits can be divided into two groups, he said. The first includes women of a variety of nationalities who use the Internet to attract and to mobilise jihadists to fight alongside al-Qaeda and to secure funding.

Such women are active on jihadist websites such as the online magazine Al-Khansa, Ahmed said.

The second group of women includes armed female jihadists who fight in hotspots alongside men or are charged with monitoring and transferring information and ammunition, as they are able to move around more easily than men, he said.

In Syria, women jihadists are used by the al-Qaeda linked "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) and JAN "to pave the way for disseminating al-Qaeda ideology, especially since the group's extremist ideas are considered a foreign concept to Syria", Ahmed said.

"The presence of female jihadists encourages Syrian women to adopt this ideology and raise their children accordingly," he said, adding, "With the increase of the number of fatalities in the ranks of ISIL and JAN, a dire need has risen to raise a new generation that espouses the ideology and teachings of al-Qaeda, in order for the organisation to survive."

This happened in Iraq, where al-Qaeda encouraged widows of suicide bombers and wives of al-Qaeda members to raise a new generation "that is fiercely loyal to al-Qaeda", Ahmed said.

The women recruited to fight in Syria include non-Syrians who have joined their husbands to fight with al-Qaeda, the wives of Syrian al-Qaeda fighters as well as others who are mobilised online or in person via al-Qaeda lectures and sermons, he said.

Some of the women from North Africa are recruited by a promise of jihad or marriage while Jordan and Lebanon are considered main sources for recruitment because of their proximity and relative ease of entry into Syria, he said.

Fatwas for 'sex jihad' are false: cleric

"What is happening to Syrian women after the bloody events is part of the patriarchal system that controls Middle Eastern societies and serves men's interests first and foremost," Saudi women's rights activist and writer Samar al-Muqrin told Al-Shorfa. "This includes members of al-Qaeda who are trying to assassinate and harm the Syrian revolution and what is called 'sex jihad' is just such an example."

What makes things worse are the fatwas in this regard that are issued by unqualified sheikhs, she said.

"This is where the danger lies, in influencing society and the collective consciousness by trading in religion," al-Muqrin said. "Religious fervour forces people to respect, appreciate and dignify anything that appears in a religious form and they cannot be blamed for that."

Sheikh Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamdi, the former head of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Mecca, said what has been reported on websites regarding the practise of "sex jihad" is a false fatwa.

Fatwas sanctioning the practise are unknown in the history of Islamic jurisprudence and the act was not practised in olden times, he said.

"In the days of the Prophet Mohammed, women who went along on conquests were never known to engage in such practices at all," al-Ghamdi said.

"If it is true there are people who legitimise ['sex jihad'] for the so-called mujahedeen, this would be punishable according to Islam because it disgraces religion and misleads people about something that is forbidden by sharia law," he said.

Joining the fight in Syria is "not permissible for either men or women because it is a war intended to cause sedition and is not jihad," al-Ghamdi said.

ADD A COMMENT (COMMENT POLICY) * DENOTES REQUIRED FIELD

  • READER COMMENTS

    الحاج

    2014-6-17

    God damn those who promote the Jihad marriage; what kind of Islam is this? Islam has nothing to do with them.

  • farzan

    2014-3-8

    islam is perfect not a jihad in this moment

  • rahal

    2013-12-24

    The rampant ignorance and keeping away from the true religion is the main cause of the current situation in which the Arabs live now. In order to solve this case, all fathers should not allow his adolescent children to use the internet.

  • ماضى الكعبى

    2013-12-21

    What is happening in Syria is a storm that aims at dividing the Arabs and obliterating the original Arab identity. However, God will show the truth and disgrace those who called for it.

  • احمد

    2013-12-21

    This is a Zionist lobby at Muslim hands. Please, fear God as to our minds. We seek God's help and support!

  • srour1958

    2013-12-19

    These are mere lies and fabricated claims. This is a dirty game run by the filthy secular mass media in order to defame the image of Islam and Muslims. They exploit the absence of the accused party and its inability to refute these claims publicly. Of course, we say so supposed that there is something called Al-Qaeda.

  • ابو سيف

    2013-12-18

    God is the Greatest. Where are the Muslims?

  • زهرة البنفسج

    2013-12-18

    As for the poll, I wish to change the question to: does ISIS belong to Al-Qaeda or the Syrian regime?

  • خالد ابن الوليد

    2013-12-18

    I swear by God that the best thing that happened to Islam was because of these fatwas, which defamed Islam. Thanks to the sheikhs!

  • حسين

    2013-12-17

    Good job.

  • بلعه

    2013-12-15

    We seek God's help against those who defame Islam through these thoughts. God will never forgive them.

  • ونقول لمن يتبع ذلك اتقو الله في انفسكم فهذالايجوزق

    2013-12-14

    We remind those who issued this fatwa to fear God.

  • محمد محمود

    2013-12-14

    I swear you have slaughtered us. What do you want from women? Leave us alone. I am a teacher in a school where there is no intermixing between men and women and I receive a big salary. I am very comfortable, but I envy the housewives. The work of the woman and leaving her house every morning and abandoning her children is a torment. This is a punishment for women. I appeal to the men to have mercy upon us and leave us build our houses and live as queens without work or shamefulness. I swear that the only thing that you need to do is to enroll us in the army. Damn you, O untrue men. Damn you and your blind imitation of the infidelity and the infidels. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Surely, you will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, in everything as one arrow resembles another, (i.e. Just like them), so much so that even if they entered a hole of a sand-lizard, you would enter it." please, leave the woman alone to take care of her children.

  • علي ﺧﺪﺭ

    2013-12-14

    Where is Islam with these groups?

  • عمري‏ ‏ما‏ ‏انساك

    2013-12-9

    This is prohibited in Islam, if you consider this as Islam.

    • منى احمد

      2013-12-18

      I like the man who does not forget.

  • ليبيا

    2013-12-7

    I’ve really got nothing to say, except God suffices me for He is the best disposer of affairs. This is the end of the world. “You who believe, heed God! Let every soul watch out for whatever it has prepared for the morrow, and heed God; God is informed about anything you do. Do not be like those who have forgotten about God, so He lets them forget about their own souls. Such people are immoral!”

  • حسين

    2013-12-5

    You tarnish the image of Islam and Muslims.

  • باديس الكوباكجي

    2013-12-3

    Bravo! This is an excellent and professional work.