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Women And Terrorism

Women And TerrorismIn an op-ed in The Boston Globe, The Fletcher School’s Paula Broadwell discusses the growing role of women in terrorism.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.14.06] Increasingly, women are becoming involved in terrorist activities from suicide bombings to transporting supplies. As female membership in terrorist organizations grows, one expert from Tufts University’s Fletcher School wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed that policymakers and counterterrorism officials should be aware of the powerful role women can play—both behind enemy lines and in the fight against terrorism.

“Organizations have several tactical reasons to use women,” Paula Broadwell, deputy director of the Jebsen Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies at The Fletcher School, wrote in the Globe. “Because women are stereotyped as nonviolent, they might elicit less attention and thus execute a stealthier attack; there are also inherent sensitivities in searching or questioning a woman, especially in many conservative Muslim societies.”

In several terrorist groups, Broadwell noted, women already play integral roles. “Female suicide terrorism is not new,” she wrote, adding that Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Chechen Black Widows all have female members—many of whom have attempted or succeeded in carrying out suicide bombings.

Aside from suicide bombings, there many other terrorism-related activities in which women take part.

“Other areas of involvement include: opening bank accounts under a maiden name to evade suspicion by counter-terrorism financing experts, raising money for terror groups through charity functions, and transporting supplies and information past airport security officers focused on Arab men,” Broadwell wrote in the newspaper. She urged experts and policymakers to take note.

“When counterterrorism experts estimate their opponents' capabilities and techniques, it behooves them to think about what is happening in the women's locker room,” she wrote in the Globe. “Equally as important, we should strive to give Muslim women across the globe other outlets for empowerment and the opportunity to contribute to countering terrorism in their societies.”

According to Broadwell, “women from Western societies,” including the United States, can join in the fight against terrorism, as well.

“We should incorporate more women in our intelligence fields who might more stealthily get behind enemy lines to gather information,” she wrote in the Globe.

Broadwell added that a number of researchers, including her colleagues at the Jebsen Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies, "are working hard to understand women's role in terrorism and counter terrorism." She noted that Fletcher students Jennie Dow, Ahmed Humayun, Katherine E. Pattillo are involved in research in this area, as well.

"We hope that the U.S. government is too,” Broadwell wrote in the Globe.

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