Women play significant role in jihadism

The role of women in jihadism should not be underestimated. Women are just as dedicated to the jihadist ideal as men. "Jihadist Women", the latest publication by the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), looks at the role played by women and the threat jihadist women pose in the conflict area of Syria and Iraq and in the Netherlands itself.

Nearly 100 jihadist women in the Netherlands

The number of female adherents of jihadist ideology in the Netherlands is approximately 100. Since 2012, at least 80 women have left the Netherlands to travel to Syria and Iraq, the publication notes. Never before has such a large number of Dutch women been in a jihadist conflict zone. The majority of these women joined ISIS.

An active and potentially violent role for women

ISIS is a pragmatic and opportunistic organisation that is facing a growing shortage of fighters. In its search for new possibilities, ISIS has recently allowed women to play a more active and violent role. If this development persists, jihadist women in the conflict area and in the Netherlands could pose a greater threat than before. In the last two years a number of jihadist women attempted to carry out attacks in Europe.

Jihadist women pose a threat to the Netherlands also in a different area, namely in that they recruit others, make and spread propaganda, and raise funds for the jihad. In addition, these women also indoctrinate their children with jihadist ideology.

Returnees remain resolved in their ideology

With the increasing military pressure on jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, more and more Dutch women are trying to flee the area. There is a significant difference between these returnees and women who returned before 2017. The women who are still in Syria or Iraq right now, have on average been there for three years. These women have been exposed to jihadist ideology and violence for a longer time, and they have built an international jihadist network. It is probable that many of them will retain their jihadist ideas and connections after their return to the Netherlands.

The publication ‘Jihadist Women’ is part of a series of publications on jihadist terrorism. Previous publications include 'Life with ISIS', 'Focus on Returnees’ and ‘The Children of ISIS’.