ISIS Shifts Women’s Role in Jihad to Female Fighters (Learn More, Video)

The Islamic State is urging women to become actively engaged in its battles, in a significant ideological move that highlights the group’s bid to increase its manpower, according to new analysis released today from Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit, a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions.

Facing heavy attacks in Raqqa and Tal Afar and with rapidly shrinking revenues and territory, Islamic State’s decline appears almost irreversible, IHS Markit says.

In the wake of depleting numbers of male militants, the group has begun to adjust its narrative to appeal to an untapped resource – female fighters.

Ludovico Carlino is a Middle East and North Africa analyst at IHS Country Risk specializing in jihadist movements across the region. (Image courtesy of Twitter)
Ludovico Carlino is a Middle East and North Africa analyst at IHS Country Risk specializing in jihadist movements across the region. (Image courtesy of Twitter)

“Despite Islamic State’s claims to the contrary, urging women to seek an active role in combat is most likely an attempt to reduce the impact of severe manpower shortages caused by the decimation of male fighters, and a recruitment crisis,” said Ludovico Carlino, senior analyst, Middle East and North Africa at Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit.

“While Islamic State has used female suicide bombers in the past, it has not done so in the concentration seen in Mosul, where current estimates of female-led suicide bombings stand at more than 40,” Carlino said.

“It is as yet unclear whether the spike in female suicide bombings is simply a result of the final pockets of Islamic State resistance or women compelled by the group to execute those attacks, or whether it represents the beginning of a wider trend of female fighters willing to take part in the group’s battles.”

ISIS Targeting Foreign Fighters’ Wives and Widows 

Islamic State’s online magazine Rumiyah indicates a revisal of previous messaging surrounding the role of women (Issue 11, released July 13).

In an article entitled ‘Our Journey to Allah’, the author (likely a woman) emphasizes that the role of women is of increased importance, as “ahead of us await times of intense trials and extreme hardships, and times of severe battles”.

Rumiyah magazine is released in several western languages, including French, German and English, indicating that this call is primarily directed at a Western audience, likely the wives and widows of foreign fighters still living in the group’s self-proclaimed Caliphate.

(Learn More about the ISIS published propaganda magazine Rumiyah, courtesy of United News International (UNI) and YouTube. Posted on May 10, 2017)

“This rhetoric marks a stark contrast to previous propaganda that had highlighted women’s primary function as wives and mothers of mujahidin,” Carlino said.

“Historically, women have been absent from Caliphate institutions, with the single exception of an all-female brigade responsible for policing women in Raqqa – enforcing non-Islamic dress infringements and ensuring that women only leave their house when accompanied by a male relative.”

(Learn More. Courtesy of Vice News, HBO and YouTube. Posted on Jun 21, 2017)

Learn More, Meet Jane’s at DSEI 2017

Jane’s is hosting a complimentary briefing at DSEI 2017 on “Future threats, missions and capabilities” that will discuss emerging terrorism threats in the West in the wake of the Islamic State.

Jane’s Briefing will address:

  • After the Islamic State: Emerging terrorism threats in the West
    • The Islamic State’s ability to continue to inspire attacks as a ‘virtual caliphate’
    • Al-Qaeda’s global resurgence as the Islamic State’s fortunes decline
    • The potential emergence of new groups or an Al-Qaeda/Islamic State hybrid, driven by the impending deaths of senior leaders and the subsequent easing of ideological fissures
    • The evolving tactics, weapons, and strategies being adopted by Islamist militant groups
  • North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile threats
  • Geospatial OSINT supporting situational awareness
  • How analytics, machine learning and services are driving changes in intelligence exploitation
  • Top future and current defence technology and capabilities

To request attendance, visit

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