Shamima Begum: Why women are terrorism's secret weapon

When women make the news because of terrorism, the focus has often been on their role as victims or as potential allies in countering the threat.

By contrast, women who take part in and support extremism have sometimes been overlooked.

This changed when runaway teen Shamima Begum was described as the “poster girl” for Islamic State after being tracked down at a Syrian refugee camp.

Four years ago, she left the UK with two friends to join IS, but claims she was “just a housewife”.

Nevertheless, the UK home secretary stripped her of UK citizenship, saying: “If you back terror, there must be consequences”. She is set to be granted legal aid to appeal the decision.

Women in extremism

Ms Begum’s case has raised a number of questions on women’s active and willing participation in violent extremism both in IS and other groups.

Rusi analysis suggests that 17% of extremist recruits in Africa are women, while separate research has indicated 13% of IS foreign recruits in Iraq and Syria are female. The exact figures remain vague and could be far higher.

Image caption Shamima Begum (right) with two school friends, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, at…

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