There is the assumption that women are invisible in conflict because of the way that people conversate about war and conflict as if it was started and fought only by men. The invisibility of women in conflict portrays them as “helpless civilians” even though women participate in conflict – planning, recruitment, violence – justification, battle – fighting, peacemaking and post – conflict reconstruction. As Cynthia Enloe once said;”…war stories often group women and children as “womenandchildren”” thus creating a notion of exclusive gender victimization. History has shown us that women have played vital roles in conflicts, but somehow they are usually mentioned as “nurses” and “clerics” serving men, as if they are bystanders watching the war unfold. One could argue that there is sexism when we talk about the gender roles in conflicts; such as men as the brave and stoic soldiers, women the innocent wife waiting for her husband to return or the sacrificing mother of her son. Could this be because analysts of conflicts insist that women are “naturally” more peaceful while men seem more prone to violence? Women’s presence in terrorist acts is as diverse as the Chechen Black widows, the Red Brigade, the Baader – Meinhof Gang and so on, yet their roles remain unnoticed. But what could be the shift that changed hierarchical gender roles and misogyny in such radical groups? The Islamic State’s propaganda changed its narrative in not only encouraging women to take an active role in military acts but also celebrating them as the chaste warriors. This really doesn’t come as a surprise since there has been a decline in men fighters because most of them were arrested by police forces, others dying in battle or being severely wounded, leaving women as widows with children to care of them in harsh conditions, which might serve as a push factor for them to join back to the radical groups. It also appears that some of the push factors include women seeking revenge for the turmoil they have been through. Either way, the rise of women combatants is a field that has yet to be explored more in details because it seems that government security forces are not prepared for the rising challenge.

And what about men in conflict? Security analyst Dr. Charli Carpenter suggests that it is both practically and morally problematic that “men have tended to be largely forgotten as civilians as if they were all combatants.” Yes, men are soldiers, combatants, political leaders, terrorists in conflicts, but they are civilian victims as well. Instead there is the notion of men meeting the hyper masculinity image of an honorable warrior who must protect or kill for his country, and if that man shows weakness or doesn’t fight, then he is emasculated by others.

Eitherway, there is no doubt that we will witness more women taking an active role at the battle field.


Meral Musli Tajroska – a psychologist, an expert on violent extremism and radicalism and a woman rights activist




This project was funded in part through a U.S. Embassy grant. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the implementers/authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government.


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