(From Magharebia) - A Moroccan expert is warning against the growing threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) using women in terrorist operations.
In the last weeks of 2014, the Moroccan and Spanish security authorities dismantled a cell specialised in recruiting women and sending them to ISIS. The cell was based in Barcelona and had extensions in Ceuta, Melilla and Fnideq.
The cell, comprising four women residing in Barcelona, targeted young girls in Morocco and sent them to Fnideq where they were ideologically indoctrinated before being sent to Syria to engage in "jihad annikah".
Several reports around the world have sounded the alarm about the rising numbers of women who join ISIS to engage in jihad annikah. The phenomenon, which started as women joined their husbands who were fighting in Syria, has evolved and now includes more and more unmarried girls.
Recent field research conducted by the Moroccan-based Northern Observatory for Human Rights (ONERDH) confirmed the worrying trend. ONERDH Director Mohamed Benaissa told Magharebia that northern Morocco has had at least ten cases.
"As to the new generation of women who are joining ISIS, most of them are young girls who were recruited via social networking websites," he explained.
Benaissa noted that sheikhs of jihadi salafism have made the matter easy for those girls by issuing fatwas permitting marriage via Skype, and other fatwas allowing them to travel to Syria without a male companion.
The phenomenon of women travelling to Syria and Iraq has taken an alarming dimension in recent months, as their number is estimated between 300 and 500.
Mohamed Benhammou, president of the Moroccan Centre for Strategic Studies (CMES), said that the size of this phenomenon was much bigger.
|Police escort a 20-year-old woman in Melilla last December during |
a combined Spanish-Moroccan sweep of Islamic State recruiters.
[AFP/Jesus Blasco de Avellaneda]
"There is another dimension related to the travel of women to Syria and Iraq, and this is related to global prostitution networks that started to pay attention to the region after the war broke out in Syria," he said.
"In a report on transnational crime issued by CMES three years ago, we observed intensive activities by global prostitution networks towards Turkey and Jordan," he added.
Benhammou unveiled that prostitution networks exploited the desire of North African girls to immigrate to Europe and lured them to Turkey where many deceived young girls found themselves hostages to prostitution networks that sell their bodies to fighters in Syria.
ISIS has exploited this situation to penetrate prostitution networks and recruit women into the group as part of the jihad annikah, Benhammou said.
"ISIS has given prostitutes a package of financial and moral incentives, like a monthly salary, a chance to repent and get out of the circle of prohibition and erase their past by giving themselves over to jihad, and a possibility to continue with their profession under the pretext of marriage with the group fighters," he explained.
"This is how jihad annikah was born, i.e., through an alliance between ISIS and global prostitution networks," Benhammou noted. "ISIS is looking for providing emotional stability and calm to its fighters, while the prostitution networks and human traffickers are looking for money."
In view of ISIS' growing interest in women and its incessant search for brides to satisfy its fighters, the organisation has formed media groups specialised in recruiting women via social networks to encourage them to travel to Syria to marry them off to mujahideen.
The most prominent of these groups are al-Khansaa media platoon and al-Zawraa group. These groups have hundreds of accounts on Twitter, publish many statements and messages that explain and justify the trends of the terrorist organisation and its mediaeval practices.
They try to focus in their propaganda on family matters that many women are interested in, such as cooking, raising children and cosmetics tips, and at the same time they make propaganda for ISIS fighters by depicting them as courageous heroes. They also provide opportunities for distance dating, exchange of photos and information between interested girls and fighters.
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