Women in Acts of Terrorism

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Laila Afifa

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Women conducting acts of terrorism are themselves the victims of terrorism. There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift in deradicalization programs.

    The involvement of women and families in the bombing incident in front of the Makassar Cathedral on Sunday, March 28, should be a resounding alarm bell for all of us. The desperate act of husband and wife Muhammad Lukman Alfarizi and Yogi Safitri Fortuna, signaled a shift in recruitment patterns of the terrorism movement. This shift should be handled and accommodated approriately, and taken into account in deradicalization programs.

    The couple was not the first. In Surabaya in 2018, husband and wife Puji Kuswati and Dita Upriyanto, with their children, committed suicide bomb attacks. The couple was members of the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) network, a terrorist organization affiliated with the ISI group. Different to the Jamaah Islamiyah which bows to Al-Qaeda, the JAD often recruits women and children to conduct suicidal bombing.

    The Hizbullah in Lebanon practiced dispatching females as suicidee bombers in the 1980s as they confronted Israel, the United States of America, the effectiveness of female suicidal bombers in Lebanon made the practice expand to encompass other parts of the world, including Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

    Employment of women in acts of terrorismis based on several reasons. One if, women tend to not draw suspicion as they enter into the heart of 'enemy' territory. In Indonesia, women provide operational advantage to JAD. Femares are deemed more effective in convincing other family membersto join the terrorist movement. Once a woman is successfully recruited, three or four other family members can usually be counted on to voluntarily join. Coordination between them is relatively difficult to detect because they do it face to face.

    Other reasons include the fact that gender is irrelevant in the desire to become bombers; in general, all the actors showed similar traits: they have little knowledge of religion, they are shackled by economic difficulties, or they are filled with rage for the loss of a family member at the hands of security apparatus. In many cases, they are easy to manipulate and accept that the suicide bombing mission is "the will of Allah." They are also convinced that bomber families will reunite once they reach heaven.

    An important root cause of the use of violence, including suicide bombing, and one that should not be ignored, is the understaning of the word jihad in the Qur'an. Radical groups such as the jad obliterate the oft-quoted saying of the Prophet as he returned from the War of Badar. The Prophet said, "You have returned from a small battle and are verily headed toward a majr battle." and his community asked of him, "And what is that major battle, PProphet of allah?" And the Prophet answered, "Jihad (conducting was against) base desires." The word "jihad" itself contains the basic meaning of "battling with intent." Radical groups prefer to interpret the word as an act of violence towards those whom they consider different. In other words, the crux of the issue is a religious sensibility of feeling exclusive.

    Lest it be forgotten: women actors of terrorism are themselves victims of terrorism, for in their daily lives they are under male domination socially and culturally, including through dogma and erroneous understanding of religious precepts.

    Deradicalization programs should pay better attention to these aspects of gender. Aside from decreasing the other trigger factors., refreshing the concepts of what constittutes adevout family should be all-important. The ideal damily should not only be guaranteed to reunite once they all reach heaven, but one that continues living a good life they share together in the here and now.

    Read the Complete Story in Tempo English Magazine