Behind the veil: women in jihad after the caliphate

Terrorism Counter-terrorism Domestic terrorism Religion Muslim women

Women have long played an important role in jihad, but the Islamic State has, since its inception, expanded both the potential and scope of those female roles. The caliphate may be no longer, but Islamic State's military defeats have not dampened the appeal of jihad in many quarters. In fact, conditions are already set for an IS resurgence. There is a global cohort of over 73 000 women and children (10 000 of them foreigners) in Kurdish camps who surrendered after the fall of Baghouz. The Islamic State considers this cohort, as well as other female supporters, a key part of its future survival. As Islamic State shifts from governance project to global terrorist movement, women will continue to play an important part of that transformation. Greater female participation in jihad will have a profound influence on the jihadist threat and counterterrorism efforts. In future, national security efforts will need to take this into account in counterterrorism, countering violent extremism as well as rehabilitation programs.

Key findings:

  • Women will be important to the resurgence and transformation of the Islamic State from governance project to global terrorist insurgency.
  • Islamic State has expanded both the potential and the scope of the roles and functions women can play, providing additional avenues for their participation in jihad in both kinetic and non-kinetic roles.
  • The cohort of former caliphate members of mostly women and children now held in camps pose a key challenge for counterterrorism efforts around the world. Assumptions about women and violence can obstruct an accurate assessment of the threat female IS supporters pose and an accurate understanding of their agency.
Publication Details
License type:
All Rights Reserved
Access Rights Type: