Justice

This is What ISIS Expects of Women -- According to One of its Brochures

February 10th 2015

By:
Alicia Lutes

If you ever wondered what it looked like to be a woman furthering the goals of a terrorist organization, you're going to want to keep reading. Because, oddly, it doesn't involve much (unless you take issue with having your rights revoked).

Earlier this week, the Quilliam Foundation released a translation of the Islamic State (otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL)'s latest recruitment document for women living in the Gulf. And shocking spoiler alert that really isn't: the group attempts to rationalize that the most empowering role for women is ...living a sedentary lifestyle. Sure, they (somehow) fancy themselves a decidedly pro-women organization, but the newly translated treatise sets forth a veritable smorgasbord of un-feminist ideals, explained into existence as the true, most religiously pious way to live.

Targeted at recruiting female jihadists-to-be, the document paints a rose-colored look at life inside the organization. "The treatise – the first such document of its kind – clarifies a number of issues hitherto obscured by the language barrier," explained the Quilliam translation. "A semi-official IS manifesto on women, it gives a lengthy rebuttal of 'Western civilisation' and universal human rights such as gender equality."

Islamic State Flag (ISIS/ISIL)

Those rights, of course, largely revolve around keeping the woman covered, ill-educated, and married from a young age. But this is no punishment, the document insists. Oh no, this is the vaulted way of life, particularly after Western culture came in and mucked everything up, emasculating men and circumventing the One True Responsibility of all humans: to worship god.

Broken down into three parts, the document — penned by the all-female Al-Khanssaa Brigades — attempts to not only strike down the outside forces with which the Islamic State quarrels (a.k.a. the Western world), but it also attempts to rationalize the myriad ways in which living a life based on Shariah guidelines is actually the "divine" right of women. The first part rebukes Western civilization and its feminist, scientifically founded, and pro-education ways.

The second part, through so-called first person accounts of life in two cities (Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria) attempts to substantiate their position on the role of women within the organization. In the third eyewitness account, a comparison to the Arabian Peninsula's ways is made in order to further convince women of the righteousness of the Islamic State's path for them.

If you were a more radical woman hoping to make a difference in furthering the mission of the Islamic State, though: think again. Because while there are all-female police brigades that exist in Iraq and Syria, by and large those responsibilities are exceptions to the rule rather than a real opportunity. Instead, emphasis is placed on women's need for a "sedentary lifestyle" and how this luxury proves that an apex of human existence has been reached.

So, for all of ISIS' purporting to be different than the rest of the terrorist regimes jockeying for power in the Middle East, it doesn't really look that way when you look at this document.

Iraqi insurgents with guns

Perhaps what sets them apart, in their minds, is their fascinatingly bizarre attempts to rationalize that this fundamentally misogynist interpretation of Islam is empowering to women. This comes in the third part of the document, with rules set forth regarding the three times it is OK for women to leave the house and how the forced covering up in a hijab is actually "freeing" to women — because nothing says freedom like the lack of choice. This, apparently, is the backbone of the new revolution. Guess that sort of thinking is inevitable when one of your core beliefs is that the emasculation of men through equality has destroyed the entire world.

What are those narrowly defined exceptions to the rule? Well when not fulfilling their "appointed role [to] remain hidden and veiled and maintain society from behind," women are allowed to leave the house in three instances: a) if she is going to study theology; b) if she is a women's doctor or teacher; c) if it has been ruled by fatwa that she must fight or engage in jihad because the situation of the ummah has become desperate" (ummah: the global community of Muslims at large).

That said there are some oddly progressive points in the document — to a point. For instance, the Islamic State believes that all women must be educated at least a little bit, as an "illiterate or ignorant" woman cannot truly fulfill the roles of mother and household head without a bit of knowledge. Ideally, mandatory education for women would "begin when they are seven years old and end when they are fifteen, or sometimes a little earlier." Like at, say, age nine, when it is considered acceptable for marriage to be arranged.

You can read the whole document in full here.