Stemming the Flow of Female Migrants to ISIS Territory

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Alisdare Hickson
A demonstration against air strikes on Syria in London November 2015. The ISD warns that women vulnerable to ISIS recruitment show further signs of radicalization as a result of Western bombing campaigns.

Men raised in the West who have travelled to ISIS-controlled territories in order to fight have received their share of media coverage, especially following the release of ISIS video tapes featuring Western-accented ISIS soldiers. Less discussed are the stories of the women who leave their homes in the West in order to live under ISIS. Dozens of these women and girls—known as muhajirat, or female migrants in Arabic—have documented their lives pre- and post-migration to ISIS-held lands on social media websites such as Tumblr, Twitter, and ASKfm. The ways in which these women use the site, what insight it gives us into their reasoning, and the ways in which social media is used as a recruiting tool for ISIS have been documented in a report released by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) entitled “Becoming Mulan?: Western Female Migrants to ISIS.” The ISD issues a number of recommendations in the report on how policymakers, politicians, and the family of these muhajirat might respond to the crisis.

 

Most of the muhajirat document on social media their alienation with the West and their feelings that Islam is under attack by American imperialism. In justifying the cause for which they are willing to leave home, they must make the case to themselves and then to other muhajirat that the threat facing Muslims is greater than the pain of leaving their homes and families behind. The ISD recommends that policy makers be aware that these women show further signs of radicalization as a result of Western bombing campaigns, and that such interventions may lead the women to pose a larger threat. The ISD also argues for counter-narratives to be developed by governments and families alike to act as a positive counter-influence for high risk young women found to be participating in these online communities.