Will women take on a role in the resistance of Raqqa?
In my first blog post I focused on what Omar Hussein, a British jihadi in IS, had been posting on Telegram in relation to fighters fleeing from the city of Raqqa, as it becomes clear it will soon fall to the SDF forces closing in.
Omar bitterly chastizes his fleeing comrades as “cowards”, and added they had enjoyed the “cocktails, ice creams, easy lifestyle,” that Raqqa had to offer, with “Brothers getting married once, twice, even three times.”
In his eyes these men “only came sham to reap the fruits of others while not sacrificing anything.”
It’s an extremely interesting account of a dwindling amount of hardcore jihadists choosing a certain death, as many others are lacking the desire and hunger for martyrdom that others crave. This shows a clear division taking place in IS.
Crucially, as those seeking martyrdom eventually find it, the ranks of hard line jihadists in IS become more and more depleted. Which may soon lead to a stage where those that lack the will to fight to the death outnumber those that have already firmly decided to give their life for the Caliphate.
In this post I will focus on what Omar has to say about the women currently in Raqqa and how in his words, this vacuum created by the men less willing to fight could have changed the role of women.
Women have an important role to play in raising the future generation of soldiers, known as the so called ‘cubs of the caliphate.’ Another of their duties is to support their husbands with loyalty and emotional support.
Omar urges the wives of those that have fled from the battle to remember their responsibilities.
“If u r a Muhajirah who’s husband has fled Raqqa then either:
1) Encourage him to come back.
2) Accept you married a coward (unless he has a valid excuse from Allaah — like injury).
3) Stay silent and share in his sin of running away from jihad — whose abode has been promised to be hell.”
Omar reminds the wives of the fleeing fighters of their duty to give their husbands the strength and moral support to return to the fight. He also attempts to shame them, and reminds them if they fail to fulfill their duty then they too share the responsibility and consequences.
This often forgotten about dynamic gives us an insight into the important roles these women play in the caliphate as a rock for their men. But as the Islamic States infrastructure collapses and the group gets more desperate, we may see women playing a larger militant role. As illustrated in a story Omar tells.
“A few days ago, a Lebanese brother told me that he went home seeing his wife pack her small bag.
He asked her what she was doing and she replied saying that her name had been accepted on the sisters’ martyrdom operation list here in Raqqa and she was going later on that day to wait for her turn.
Compare there noble lionesses to the Munāfiqīn from the Muhājirīn and so-called Ansār who ran away!”
This could be dramatic attempt at further shaming the men who have run away, by fabricating a story in which the women are now having to fill the spaces caused by the cowardice of so many. However, given the desperate circumstances it could very much be true. It would certainly come as no surprise if women were one day bidding farewell in videos before embarking on suicide operations for IS in Iraq and Syria.
In the event that women one day climb into VBIEDS it will be more than likely purely for propaganda purposes, rather than a shortage of manpower, to shame and embarrass those who instead opt for survival.
It is also important to remember that many of the women who traveled to Syria from the West have settled in Raqqa. The prospect of arrest when they return home is surely daunting to many. It would be entirely plausible that they may prefer to die.
While children have been used as front line suicide bombers on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria before, the use of women has so far mainly been reserved for terror attacks on Western targets.
As security officials warn of a possible wave of returnee foreign fighters coming back to Europe following increasing defeats, some are increasingly concerned about women evading security measures to slip through the net and carry out operations at home.
Many of the wives of fighters have been trained in weapons, and some have been members of the Hisbah shariah religious police. Only time will tell whether the wives of fighters take on a more militant role in the dying days of the Islamic State. Raqqa could very well be the proving ground for this new strategy as they’re placed under increasing pressure.