Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Middle Eastern Studies


Anna Akasoy

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | International and Area Studies | International Relations | Islamic World and Near East History | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Peace and Conflict Studies | Political History


violence, terrorism, gender, agency, women, Islamic State


This paper will analyze women’s participation in terrorism under groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. It will research the use of violence within terrorist organizations, perpetrated by female participants. What leads women to join groups like the Islamic State? There will be an analysis of the factors that attract women to joining terrorist organizations, in addition to the practices of recruitment that aid in their radicalization. There is a misconception that women who join the Islamic State lack education, which is seen as the sole reasoning for their radicalization or involvement. In reality, several reasons exist leading to their participation. Women knowingly join the organization, and while some actively participate, others seldom understand the magnitude of what it means to be members of the organization.

Although women are in fact perpetrators within the Islamic State, they are often also victims within the organization. I will focus on the Islamic State’s manipulation of those women involved with the organization, but also recognize that women’s agency exists as they inflict violence. There is growing focus on the examination of the Islamic State’s levels of violence, specifically their use of gendered violence regarding women. The Islamic State carries out violence against women in several different ways, including both physical and non-physical. More often, scholars focus on the violence perpetrated outside of their organization. It is essential to examine both the violence within and outside their organization to fully comprehend the massive violence they perpetrate, including the nonphysical violence

As women are involved within the organization, or outside of the organization, they are often placed into categories, as guilty, or innocent, as victim or perpetrator. I intend to show that these are not mutually exclusive. Women can be categorized as individuals who are perpetrators, but who also experience violence. Associating women’s position’s with only one of these categories fails to recognize the complexity of their position and experiences within terrorist organizations. Do individuals deem the violence the Islamic State perpetrates against the women inside their organization as a lesser form of violence? Gendered constructs also create the perception that women are more susceptible to violence. I plan to examine the ideas of victim versus perpetrator, as these are not always separate characteristics of women.