Europol, the European Law Enforcement Agency, has released their European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report for 2016. What it revealed is surprising. Women from European countries are leaving in larger numbers to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.

  • In Syria and Iraq, a significant number of “foreign terrorist travelers” are women.
  • A significant percentage of all foreign terrorist travelers in Syria/ Iraq are now female.
  • Women, alone or with young families, are going to Iraq to join their husbands–or they are traveling there to marry and have children with IS fighters.

Women Traveling to IS Territory

  • Before they leave to Syria or Iraq, women are effective at recruiting and facilitating IS activities within the EU.
  • But, IS calls for them to travel to their territory, even independently.
  • Other jihadist groups would usually not allow women to travel without being in the custody of a male.
  • Once they arrive in IS territory, their independence is taken from them, and they are banned from returning to their home countries.
  • Upon arriving, they marry fighters unless they are already married to one, then they begin having children. 
  • Those who do return to their home countries will carry out activities on behalf of ISIS, like recruitment or fundraising.

The report says that women are traveling into Syria and Iraq from all over the EU, and it is very difficult for them to leave.

“An increasing proportion of women have travelled from some EU Member States – for example from the UK, Belgium and, more markedly, the Netherlands. Females account for approximately 40% of the Dutch travelers currently in the conflict zone in Syria and Iraq. Only 11% of returnees to the Netherlands are female, perhaps underlining how difficult it is for women to leave IS territory. Around 20% of the travelers from Finland and Germany are women.”

Those who do return to their home countries will carry out activities on behalf of ISIS, like recruitment or fundraising.

The Role of Women in IS

Most likely, women aren’t on the frontlines, but they are still trained on how to use weapons. There is a suspicion that ISIS is using women as suicide bombers, but this is unconfirmed. They are allowed to work in the health sector and among women-only forces which check that public dress standards are enforced.

ISIS has the expectation that women manage their households, obey their husbands, and look after their children, making sure to teach them according to IS ideology. They make this appealing to women by promising them respect, affection, and protection from their husbands.

The Next Generation of Foreign Terrorist Fighters
Women’s other role in ISIS is to give birth to and indoctrinate children into IS. Many of the children of foreign women in ISIS are born and raised Iraq or Syria. These children are shown in propaganda to be the next generation of foreign terrorist fighters. They are desensitized to violence early, and begin participating in it at a young age. In addition to the few women who will return to their home countries, this next generation will pose a major security threat to Europe and other Western countries.

Learn about the women who are the secret weapon against ISIS.