Women and the Islamic State

As a woman living in the 21st Century, I have enjoyed the freedom to study, to work, and to express my thoughts without fear of punishment, and so I am completely dumbfounded as to why three teenage girls would voluntarily fly to Syria to join the Islamic State. What could they possibly be thinking?

According to the group Raqqa is being slaughtered silently, women as young as 9 can be married off to Islamic fighters. Young girls are sold from one fighter to another and repeatedly raped. There are also reports that women are subjected to brutal sexual assaults, are not allowed to attend University or to work, their movements are restricted, they are unlikely to ever be allowed to leave Syria, and they must completely cover themselves in black robes. This is not freedom or tolerance; it is paedophilia, oppression, and slavery.

According to the Guardian, ISIS militants trade women like slaves:

They sold Amsha for $12. Other girls and women went for more, much more. But Amsha had a small son and was pregnant with her second child. She had already seen Islamic State (Isis) militants execute her husband in front of her. Now the terror of that crime and the fear of captivity was to be replaced by the indignity and humiliation of being traded like cattle.

Islamic extremists condone and encourage violence against those with different religious views. They beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians late last year for no other reason than the fact they were Christian. If Islamic extremists want the right to live according their religious values then they must allow others to do the same. Religious values that condone exterminating everyone else whose religious values differ are incompatible with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Freedom to have a religion does not imply freedom to exterminate everyone else who has a different religion. Article 29 of the declaration states:

In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

Thomas Paine once said, “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

The human race has come so far in terms of tolerance of others and women’s rights which makes the rise of ISIS and the presence of women in my society who support this type of violence and oppression all the more disturbing. It was more than 200 years ago when Mary Wollstonecraft said, “Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.

She would be appalled to see women and girls in our society, who are the beneficiaries of her ideas, willingly give up their freedom and instead choose violence, oppression, slavery, and “blind obedience”.


  1. I wonder if they were groomed in some way?
    I think there are quite a few “fighters” who find that what they were promised is not the same as what they find. There are also many who buy into it – of course it’s easier for men to do this as they have all the rights in that society. There is also that former radiotherapy student who is a kind of “celebrity” fighter wife, which of course gives her power. It will be interesting to see what happens to these three girls – I hope they come back safe and in a position to warn others that everything might not be what was promised to them.

    1. Yes, I read somewhere that they were “groomed” but how does someone groom a Western girl, who is used to the freedoms that come with being part of our society, into lives of violence and subservience? Perhaps they are promised things that turn out to be false but are they oblivious to the news reports about how women in these societies are treated? Or how people with different religious views are exterminated? It’s hard to imagine any promises, true or false, that could prevail someone to willingly enslave themselves.

      1. I think maybe as a society we need to look at how credible these young people find our news sources, since so many of them are able to ignore all the things that most of our society take as the “real” face of extremist Islam. I don’t think that we have looked in any way at winning the ideological battle on the ground.

      2. Depends. If you give people the impression that they are part of something bigger then themselves and have a project to work towards.. especially if their upbringing has already made them feel like outsiders in their own country.. especially if they are highly impressionable 15/16 year olds who don’t see themselves as have much in the way of other prospects.

  2. Harrowing that this sort of thing still goes on unchanged. It makes me bleak about the future of mankind, when we can’t be tolerant of others’ beliefs, and treat all people with respect.

  3. It is a good article, and very disturbing. I hope any young person wishing to join the ISIL revolution will read it. ISIL has been very effective at using the social media as a recruiting tool, portraying a reality different than that which will occur for those who are recruited. I think some Western countries, certainly in the United States, we have played into their hands by discriminating against and sometime harassing Muslims. Perhaps they believe the propaganda and wish to escape where things are made to seem better.

    Anonymous, the hacker’s group, has for a long time been taking down the ISIL websites and social media and asking why, if they can do it, Western intelligence groups have not. The United States has just formed a special Security director to combat the propaganda. http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/watch/us-readies-to-confront-isis-in-online-battle-402261571631?cid=eml_mra_20150221

    1. That’s a great report. I watched the whole of the Anonymous video on YouTube and it’s probably worth sharing here:

      I wonder why governments and corporations do not take down ISIS propaganda sites? Support for terrorism is not protected under freedom of speech. It’s hard to believe that governments would not be able to do it. Perhaps they leave it for a specific reason? I can’t imagine any reason is good enough for the families of the three girls who have disappeared though.

    2. I’ve just found an interesting article: How a team of social media experts is able to keep track of the UK jihadis.

      Shiraz Maher, senior fellow at the centre – who probably has a rounder picture than most people of the average Isis recruit, having orchestrated conversationswith 50 foreign fighters in Syria, primarily using Facebook and Twitter – said: “From an intelligence perspective, social media allows us to gauge their mood and gives opportunities to perhaps create or exploit dissent. Before social media you would have needed to have recruited spies.”

  4. I am appalled as you Rachel, I just can’t understand why these girl would do this and also, how they were able to leave the country as minors to Turkey, no questions asked in view of what is going on with ISIS? The whole thing stinks 😦

  5. These teenage girls went of their own volition, they were not abducted or ‘groomed’ by an older male. As a native of Oxfordshire (now living next door in Warwickshire) I am more concerned about the girls who were raped by a Muslim paedophile gang in Oxford. Read up on Operation Bullfinch, the belated investigation by the police. I am not generally a fan of what Allison Pearson writes in the Torygraph, but this article is absolutely spot on:


    1. Thanks for the link. The first part of that article is very funny. I would agree with the argument – “let them go” – except that one of the girls is just 15. If a 15-year-old girl ran off to France with her school teacher we wouldn’t just say “let her go”. We’d try to get her back. If all three girls were 18 then I’d definitely say it’s their choice and let them go if that’s what they want to do. If it was my own daughter though I’d be going there myself to get her back regardless of her age.

      What happened in Rotherham is an absolute disgrace. Political correctness should never be an excuse for charging and convicting someone of rape. From what I understand, and I hope this is the case, the abusers have now been brought to justice. It’s also completely astonishing that anyone could possibly condone the Paris attacks. Offence is never an excuse for murder. That someone could ever think this is astounding to me.

      1. It isn’t just Rotherham. The same has happened in Oxford, as mentioned and Bristol, two relatively prosperous cities which are not in the North of England; and in several other places, Rochdale of course being one.

        As the for the girls, yes they are under-age and it had occurred to me that the whole thing could be a hoax. How were they allowed unaccompanied on the flight? However they haven’t been abducted by a school teacher or anyone else.

        What Allison Pearson is highlighting is the disproportionate media coverage. In so far as the PC BBC mentions the paedophile gangs it describes them as ‘Asian’, an insult to all non-Muslim Asians; also inaccurate as the Muslim rape gang Bristol are Somali:


        The real problem is that the BBC, The Guardian and the rest of the political left are frightened to tackle this issue, when they ought to be the first to speak out.

      2. How were they allowed unaccompanied on the flight?

        I think children are allowed to fly unaccompanied from the age of 16 and from what I understand, the 15-year-old stole her sister’s passport.

        What Allison Pearson is highlighting is the disproportionate media coverage.

        I think the reason for this is because of how inconceivable it is that three girls should voluntarily choose a life of subservience, violence, and general disrespect for women over their lives here in Britain. The first part of the Telegraph article you linked to above makes the choice seem completely nuts.

        As for the Pakistani and Somali sex gangs, it is completely despicable. I have a female friend in Brisbane who is a police officer. She has spoken to me previously about the problems she has when dealing with Somali men who break the law. They do not respect her or acknowledge her role in law enforcement because she is a woman.

  6. I shan’t labour the point any further on this matter though it is entirely plausible that the three could each be running away from being forced into marriage with a much older man and these ‘heroic warriors’, closer to their own age, look like an attractive alternative (out of the frying pan into the fire, as it were).

    To understand their mentality, it had occurred to me that thirty years ago, Doris Lessing’s novel ‘The Good Terrorist’ was published, about a teenage girl who runs away to join a ‘revolutionary’ group. Lessing was inspired to write the novel after hearing about the daughter of a friend, who threatened to run off and join the IRA, after a row with her parents. ‘What fun for the IRA, I imagined (for the first time) how neurotics of all sorts must be turning up in Ireland, demanding to be taken to see the Leader’. You probably won’t be able to read this article very well but I posted it a couple of weeks ago alongside one on Kurt Vonnegut:

    1. … it is entirely plausible that the three could each be running away from being forced into marriage with a much older man and these ‘heroic warriors’, closer to their own age, look like an attractive alternative (out of the frying pan into the fire, as it were).

      This is possible. I also wondered whether they might be going to rescue their friend, the Glasgow woman who left a year or so ago. But sadly, I think I’m probably mistaken.

      The Doris Lessing novel sounds good. I’ll have to read it.

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