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Why women fighters are becoming more significant in Islamic State

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Washington, Feb 22: Although a couple of women have faced wrath of the governments of their respective countries after they joined the Islamic State (IS) and now want to come back, it doesn't diminish the significance of women's role in the terror outfit.

Why women fighters are becoming more significant in Islamic State

According to an expert on terrorism in Harvard University, the role of women inside the IS is growing as the Sunni group is transforming itself into an underground body.

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Earlier, the women's roles in the IS were limited to child-bearing and household work while the men undertook the combat roles.

Now, the IS's stand on gender roles is changing fast even though it was known to make segregation between genders earlier, according to Vera Mironova, Visiting Scholar in the Economics Department at Harvard University, and former Associate of the International Security Program at Harvard's Belfer Center.

In an article she wrote for The New York Times on Wednesday, February 20, Mironova said that early indications of the shift were witnessed in 2017.

Mironova, who has carried out research in Iraq while embedded with the country's Special Operations Forces, argues that the Islamic State has been "quietly shifting its insistence of strict gender hierarchy" and is now "allowing, even celebrating, female participation in military roles".

"In October 2017, the movement's newspaper called on women to prepare for battle by early last year, the group was openly praising its female fighters in a video that showed a woman wielding an AK-47, the narration describing "the chaste mujahed woman journeying to her Lord with the garments of purity and faith, seeking revenge for her religion and for the honor of her sisters," she wrote in her opinion piece.

Mironova though said that it is not possible to estimate the number of women who have picked up arms to fight for the IS accurately, she added that interviews with Iraqi military and police officers suggested that women IS fighters are no more surprising as it was earlier.

Mironova has conducted research in Iraq while embedded with its Special Operations Forces.

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Women are less targeted by anti-terror forces

The expert also gave examples of women radicals who wanted their husbands and sons to join the IS or sought to marry IS fighters to become a part of "mujahideen families".

Another theory behind the rise of the women fighters is the relative shortage of male combatants in the outfit and also that women fighters become more helpful in carrying out covert operations as they are less targeted by government troops.

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