Rape and Recruiting Suicide Bombers

Feministe commenter Tom Foolery sent me this article with a note to read paragraphs 3 & 4. I’d suggest you do the same.


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20 comments for “Rape and Recruiting Suicide Bombers

  1. southpaw
    February 13, 2009 at 10:41 am

    That is horrible beyond imagining.

  2. cbrachyrhynchos
    February 13, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I’m torn on this one. If true it’s horrible. On the other hand, our only source appears to be the confession of a woman under custody. If it’s not true, we have the horrible possibility that Jassim was coerced or tortured into confession.

  3. ely
    February 13, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I’m in a class on gender and terrorism and we learned about this last week. Rape is actually a rather frequent recruiting tactic in recruiting female terrorists after they have shown initial interest, and, further, many female terrorists have been victims of rape or other sexual crimes. In order to re-gain their and their family’s honor, they may take to suicide attacks.

    Then the class inevitably goes into a discourse about if female suicide bombers are feminist because they are taking a generally male role, and I have to continuously point out how if the roots of their actions can be found in mysoginistic social structure then, no, it is not feminist, it’s another casualty of a male-heirarchical sphere. Wonderful way to begin my mornings.

  4. February 13, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Can we just end this miserable experiment called the human race and start over?

  5. Tom Foolery
    February 13, 2009 at 11:36 am

    On the other hand, our only source appears to be the confession of a woman under custody.

    She also explained, in a separate interview with the Associated Press, how insurgents used rape as a tool, with the “shamed” women persuaded to redeem themselves through suicide attacks.

    Seems like at least part of the confession was not necessarily made to Iraqi security forces.

  6. MikeF
    February 13, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Seems like at least part of the confession was not necessarily made to Iraqi security forces.

    True, but it could have been part of an agreement with authorities to de-humanize the insurgents in return for lenient treatment. It sounds like a plausible claim but I feel we would have heard about this already if it were true; certainly if it were widespread. It is certainly is horrific if it’s true.

  7. southpaw
    February 13, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Her role was to persuade the traumatised victims that carrying out a suicide attack was their only way out.

    That claim was impossible to verify, AP said, and during their interview with her police interrogators sat in an adjoining room.

    But in a culture where rape is considered very shameful for the victim, it is not implausible, correspondents say.

    I have no idea if anything in the article is true. Along with the BBC’s “correspondents,” I don’t find it particularly implausible, though it is an extraordinary claim. In any case, the idea horrible beyond imagining.

  8. Rhianna
    February 13, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Why is that the only thing in the article we question? We know rape is a tool of war, we know it’s under reported and we know that in many cultures, including America’s, it is used to shame women into submission. There is a huge problem with rape in our own military culture (http://www.stopmilitaryrape.org/) so I don’t think it’s even a stretch of the imagination to believe the claims or think that people wouldn’t report it.

  9. February 13, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Whether this particular incident is proven true or not, it remains clear that rape is a common tool of war in just about all cases. We’ve used it in Iraq, and there’s no reason to suspect the insurgents are any less given to atrocities than us.

    War is a gendered pursuit through and through. And women are not ‘people’ or ‘soldiers’ but cultural symbols to be played like pawns in what is inevitably a man’s game.

  10. CBrachyrhynchos
    February 13, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    The United States military and security forces trained by the military have zero credibility on accusations of terrorism since the last administration. While these atrocities are plausible, so is the possibility that Jassim has been coerced into a confession that fabricates or distorts the truth. Further investigation into the matter would, hopefully, either confirm Jassim’s story or find her innocent.

    Which is really all I’m suggesting here. I’m not taking a position that the rapes did or did not happen. I’m saying that these are claims that warrant deeper investigation by sources not tainted by the use of torture.

  11. MikeF
    February 13, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Why is that the only thing in the article we question?

    I think a lot of the claims are questionable, though that doesn’t mean they’re false: she claims to have recruited 3/4 of the female suicide bombers in Iraq which sounds a stretch, and the idea that she personally walked the bombers to their targets does not seem likely. What really sounds my BS-detector though is the fact that she was allowed to give a press interview. How many captured insurgents are allowed to do that? With the police in the adjoining room it seems likely that she was allowed to do the interview on the condition that she makes the insurgents sound as bad as possible (perhaps as part of an informal plea deal); and that makes exaggerations and fictions somewhat likely.

    But it’s very true that rape is under-reported and used as a tool of war in Iraq and elsewhere, and the veracity of this woman’s account doesn’t make that any less true. I just think it’s interesting to speculate on what was actually going on in the interview room.

  12. Alara Rogers
    February 13, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    In Persepolis, Satriani has a sequence in which her main character finds out that her friend, who was executed for dissidence, was raped before her execution, because the Quran forbids executing a virgin… so they forcibly marry virginal dissident women to guards, who then rape them, and then divorce them, and now that they are no longer virgins they can be executed.

    Satriani having no motivation to try to make Iranians or Muslims look bad, given that she is one, I found this horrifyingly plausible. And since I have read stories of Iraqi women who were rescued from kidnappers and returned to their families being murdered by said families because they *might* have been raped… I completely believe this story.

    The rest of what she said, recruiting three-fourths of the female bombers and stuff, maybe not so much. But the idea that the insurgents would rape a woman and then tell her that the only way she can evade the shame of being “ruined” is to nobly sacrifice her life? Totally plausible, given the culture. There might be less cognitive dissonance and less reason for the woman to resist if they don’t know *who* raped them, and the person who persuades them to salvage their honor by blowing themselves up is this woman… but I suspect that even if they know they are being raped by the insurgents, the idea of blowing themselves up to save their public reputation is *still* more attractive than living as a known rape victim.

  13. aram
    February 13, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    It’s very tempting to view other cultures as depraved and barbaric. This article plays into that. I have no evidence that it’s false, but let’s be careful, and let’s keep in mind the broader context that Rhianna (#8) and idyllicmollusk (#9) remind us of.

  14. ArmyVet
    February 13, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    There is even less reason to belive it is not true. This isn’t a question, to me, of whether a culture is depraved unless you are talking about the culture of militarism.

    The US military has number of about 1/3 of ITS OWN females being raped. This sounds more like a problem of militaristic patriarchal culture.

  15. February 14, 2009 at 8:02 am

    I feel we would have heard about this already if it were true; certainly if it were widespread.

    There’s a fair amount of information coming out of Iraq, but if you look closely, most of it is from men. We don’t hear a lot from or about women and what we do hear (resurgence of honor killings since the invasion, for example) is not good.

    I find this story totally believable, and I’m not a bit surprised this is the only place we’ve heard of it.

  16. Ursula L
    February 14, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I find it interesting how the rapists are invisible, and unnamed, by the linked article. That’s a pretty significant oversight.

    The article almost seems to imply that the insurgents are the ones doing the rape, and then turning around and manipulating the victims. Yet, if the rapes are done by US or other occupying forces, it opens the door for many more motives than shame over being raped. Revenge, for example against the occupiers who have done the harm, by undermining the occupation. Or justice, using your last act to punish those who have harmed you, when no other type of justice is available.

    The women who become bombers are disturbingly voiceless here. We here from one who claims to have persuaded them to bomb, framing her arguments in language acceptable and nonthreatening to the men around her. A sexually assaulted woman is shamed, and must act to redeem herself in some way. They raped, they are shamed, they are manipulated, and they are without agency every step of the way, according to the narrative given, even when the act may well be one of reclaiming agency when both invader and neighbor are allied against them.

  17. Tom Foolery
    February 15, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    The women who become bombers are disturbingly voiceless here.

    There are serious — one might even say insurmountable — challenges that face a reporter who wants to interview a woman who has successfully become a suicide bomber.

  18. February 15, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Rape as a “recruitment tactic” has been documented by at least one journalist in Chechnya. In that case, as I recall, women with severe family problems and/or lack of male relatives were targeted.

  19. February 17, 2009 at 11:51 am

    We’ve covered the issue here, here, and here before.

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