Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Iraq: Apr '08

Women politicians say IWPR report in female suicide bombers needs to be followed up.

Top Iraqi women leaders said the threat of women suicide bombers needs to be addressed following a report on the subject by IWPR Iraq’s editorial team.

The report, Sense of Injustice Drives Women Bombers, linked the recent rise in female suicide bombers to the wartime suffering of women.

Experts said women are deeply affected by the conflict, having lost sons, husbands and brothers, with some seeking revenge, and ending up as recruits for terrorist groups. 

At least nine women have killed themselves in suicide attacks in Iraq this year, up from six in 2007. Women are often able to avoid searches at security checks, making those who choose to become suicide bombers a growing security concern.

IWPR Iraq’s report underlined that little research has been conducted into the problem.

Profiles of these suicide bombers need to be created so that women can be helped and security can be improved, leading female politicians said after reading IWPR’s report.

“The story is interesting,” said Azhar Al-Sheikhli, former minister of state for women’s affairs. “The issue needs to be addressed seriously and with depth … It requires scientific evidence, studies and analyses.”

Sheikhli said she thinks studies need to be conducted to determine the differences between male and female suicide bombers and the psychological problems women face.

An IWPR reporter spent months trying to research the new suicide bombing trend and discovered that the Iraqi government has not conducted studies or gathered any information on the subject. 

IWPR made several enquiries as to why the government has not studied the trend – even as the number of female bombers has grown.

Defence ministry official Mohammed Al-Askari said his department, women’s advocacy organisations and the ministry of state for women’s affairs would form a committee to address the issue.

But Azhar Al-Sharbaf, a legal expert at the ministry of state for women’s affairs, said it had never received a proposal and no committee had been formed. IWPR could not reach Askari for comment.

Mayson Al-Damaloji, a member of parliament, praised the IWPR story for offering a number of explanations for the problem.

“The story is good and reflects a variety of opinions,” she said. “It definitely sheds light on the issue.

As far as addressing the trend, Damaloji said a solution might be difficult. “Personally, I think that there is little that one can do short of ridding the world of al-Qaida and fundamentalism,” she said. “Many women lose loved ones, but do not turn into suicide bombers.”

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