Female suicide bombers: What the state must do to prevent others from following in the KU attacker’s footsteps – Pakistan

It is probably going that ladies will play a bigger function within the BLA’s army operations. Does the state have a counter-strategy?

Less than an hour after the explosion that killed three Chinese nationals and a Pakistani man in Karachi University, the proscribed Baloch Liberation Army’s Majeed Brigade tweeted it was their doing. The sickeningly congratulatory message — on having killed 4 unarmed civilians — was accompanied by one other announcement: This assault had been carried out by a lady — recognized as Shari Baloch — a primary for the militant outfit.

A second tweet was accompanied by an image of the alleged suicide bomber alongside along with her two youngsters. The militants lauded her because the “first female fidayee of the Baloch nation”, including that she had “set new standards of gallantry, sacrifice and awareness”.

The hypothesis concerning the attacker’s potential motives started instantly. Many merely couldn’t fathom how a mom of two younger youngsters might kill herself, in addition to taking so many harmless lives along with her. There was no query about it, others mentioned: somebody in her household should have been killed, should have gone lacking or should have been wronged ultimately by the state — all of which have turn into rallying cries and recruiting factors for separatist teams working in Balochistan. Why else would she have finished one thing so inhumane?

Murky particulars

Yet, because the particulars trickled in, they swept apart these assumptions. Thirty-year-old Shari Baloch was a secondary college trainer, the spouse of a dentist, the mom of two youngsters, tweeted journalist Kiyya Baloch.

Read extra: Who are the perpetrators of the latest assault on Chinese residents?

Born in Turbat in 1991, she was married and had two youngsters. She herself was extremely educated, with two Masters, her uncle, Ghani Parvaaz, instructed, including that many members of her household had held excessive authorities positions. Her father, Mohammad Hayat, had retired as a registrar in Turbat University whereas Parvaaz himself was a retired professor and author.

No one in her household seemed to be lacking or slain by the hands of safety forces, aside from a distant relative who was killed in a army operation in Kech in 2018, wrote Kiyya Baloch.

The BLA assertion, in the meantime, indicated a deliberate, aware choice made by her, saying Shari had joined the Majeed Brigade — a very deadly guerilla cell of the BLA — two years in the past and ‘voluntarily signed up for self-sacrifice’.

They had given her time, they mentioned, to revisit her choice and he or she reaffirmed her need to hold out a fidayee assault six months in the past.

There was seemingly nothing about her to recommend any trigger for radicalisation or indoctrination, nothing that will have pushed her to the intense that could be a suicide assault. So why?

If Balochistan’s Parliamentary Secretary for Information Bushra Rind is to be believed, her detained husband has mentioned Shari was “mentally ill”. He apparently made this revelation throughout interrogation.

As investigators attempt to piece collectively the puzzle and confirm a potential motive, it’s price trying again on the accounts of some ladies who’ve chosen to take an identical path earlier than her.

At the forefront

Sixteen-year-old Sana Mehaidli, born and raised within the Lebanese village of Anquan, had been working at a video retailer when the Lebanese Civil War erupted. In March 1985, she left house, telling her mother and father she was going out to purchase nail polish for her mom.

Three weeks later, she grew to become the primary feminine suicide bomber the world has recognized, incomes herself the title, ‘the Bride of the South’, when she drove an explosive-laden Peugeot into an Israeli convoy in occupied south Lebanon.

In a letter her mother and father obtained after her dying, Sana mentioned she had lengthy waited to do one thing in regards to the oppression and felt it her responsibility to play her half.

An official from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which had organised the assault, mentioned the bombing had been Sana’s personal thought. “Some of our men tried to persuade her to change her mind,” he claimed.

Since Sana, ladies have carried out suicide assaults as a part of militant campaigns from Chechnya to Palestine, and from Iraq to Sri Lanka. It was a feminine operative from the Tamil Tigers who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, detonating an explosive belt hidden beneath her gown as she bent to the touch his toes at a political rally.

And whereas there have been few assaults involving feminine suicide bombers in Pakistan, Shari is definitely not the primary we have now seen.

In 2010, a veiled lady blew herself up at a meals distribution centre arrange by the World Food Programme in Bajaur, killing a minimum of 45 folks lined up for rations. The following yr, a husband-and-wife duo raided a police station in Dera Ismail Khan, taking pictures 5 police personnel earlier than killing seven extra in a suicide bombing. Two months later, a teenaged woman approached a police checkpoint at Peshawar’s Lahori Gate, lobbing a grenade earlier than urgent the set off on her explosive vest.

In 2012, a feminine Uzbek bomber focused then Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed in Mohmand Agency. The subsequent yr, a lady posing as a college pupil climbed right into a Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University bus in Quetta — her bomb killed a minimum of 25 folks, most of whom had been college students. In one other advanced assault in 2019, a feminine suicide bomber struck outdoors a hospital in Dera Ismail Khan.

While Laskhkar-e-Jhangvi shortly took duty for the Quetta assault, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed a number of of the others, warning within the first incident that they’d a number of extra feminine suicide bombers ready to be deployed.

Why select ladies

From the standpoint of the terrorist organisation, suicide bombings are probably the simplest tactic within the terrorist arsenal — based on terrorism knowledgeable Dr Robert Pape, they’re 12 occasions deadlier than some other type of terrorism. And from a strategic perspective, research present that ladies are considered simpler at it than males.

Arousing much less suspicion than males, ladies are usually not as more likely to be stopped by safety personnel. Um Al Harith, a would-be suicide bomber in Iraq, had banked on this in her plan to strike US troops, remarking, “The guards just stare when a woman walks past, and they never search women. So I would go inside [the base] first wearing a suicide vest. And when they all gathered around me, I would blow myself up.”

Militants use this to their benefit, looking for out recruits who don’t match the ‘profile’. Moreover, it’s simpler for girls to get round safety checkpoints, predominantly manned by males — any invasive searches could draw outrage over harassment.

In Pakistan, few checkpoints are staffed by ladies and cultural and spiritual norms stop male safety personnel from patting down ladies. Burqas make it simple to cover explosives beneath clothes too — a cumbersome belt across the waist can simply be disguised, lulling safety forces into complacency.

This capability of ladies to go deep into places the place males could also be stopped on the entrance makes them extra deadly too, particularly with regards to enclosed, crowded areas, the place the explosive supplies and shrapnel are much more damaging.

For terrorist organisations, it is about manpower too. A Hamas chief, justifying ladies’s participation within the group’s violence, rationalised, “Women are like the reserve army — when there is a necessity, we use them.” And typically, it is merely that ladies are seen by the group as being extra expendable. In the phrases of a former Boko Haram member, “using women [as suicide bombers] allows you to save your men.”

And in fact, a lady or a younger woman blowing themselves up for a trigger makes for a gripping image. Terrorism is all in regards to the message it delivers, and the extra dramatic the assault, the extra publicity it will get — for the organisation, for the trigger, for the calls for.

The savagery and ingredient of self-sacrifice on the coronary heart of suicide assaults attracts extra media consideration. An assault perpetrated by a lady garners eight occasions as a lot press consideration on common than an identical assault by a person, based on political scientist Dr Mia Bloom, the creator of Bombshell: The Many Faces of Women Terrorists.

It’s not simply in regards to the media both. An assault by a lady is extra surprising, extra unnerving. It will get society excited about the desperation of the matter — what introduced these moms and wives and daughters to the purpose the place they’re prepared to die to acquire what they understand as justice? And when it comes to recruitment for the group, too, it’s an especially efficient means to disgrace males into motion. If even your ladies are combating to your group, why aren’t you?


But what kind of individual decides to turn into a suicide bomber? To date, students have largely been unable to sketch an actual profile.

Suicide bombers are no more more likely to be poor, or uneducated, or to have psychological sicknesses. Many, the truth is, can have college levels and be financially secure — like Shari, seemingly. “The profile of a suicide terrorist resembles that of a politically conscious individual who might join a grassroots movement more than it does the stereotypical murderer, religious cult member, or everyday suicide,” says Robert Pape, in his e-book, Dying to Win.

When it involves feminine terrorists, the knee-jerk response is to imagine they had been pushed into committing the heinous acts. Was it out of grief as a result of her husband or baby had been killed? Was it revenge for some sexual assault she was subjected to? Was she brainwashed? Surely, a lady — somebody who’s ‘innately’ delicate, non-violent, nurturing — absolutely she couldn’t consciously have determined to turn into a terrorist on her personal. She should have been a pawn or a sufferer — of males, of the state, of circumstances.

As Anne Speckhard places it in her 2008 paper, titled, ‘The Emergence of Female Suicide Terrorists’, “journalists typically consult with ladies bombers as life-givers and make analogies to carrying bombs as a substitute of infants of their wombs”. These references are by no means given to male terrorists, even though males additionally give life and nurture youngsters as effectively.

It’s true, says Bloom, that many ladies turn into terrorists to avenge the lack of a liked one — a husband, a baby, a dad or mum, a sibling. Rape is one other sturdy motivator; it could actually typically go away ladies feeling that they’ve little selection however to affix the terrorists to ‘reclaim’ their honour. For Tamil ladies raped at authorities checkpoints, there may be little hope of a standard married life; for girls in lots of different conservative societies, such assaults could result in their very own households killing them within the title of ‘honour’.

And so, they turn into suicide bombers, going from being a supply of disgrace to the household to a supply of satisfaction. Family or peer strain, too, can manipulate ladies to take part in clandestine actions. In truth, feminine terrorists usually tend to have a detailed buddy or member of the family already being a part of the group.

Yet motivations could be advanced; there’s no single pathway to terrorism. Yes, coercion and private victimisation could be a sturdy driver. But as Jessica Davis, creator of Women in Modern Terrorism, factors out, it’s a disservice to the company of ladies if we imagine they’re concerned solely due to their households and buddies, due to coercion, or for private revenge.

“We often see reporting of women’s motivations personalised, whereas men’s are politicised. For everyone, it’s usually a combination of motives,” she tweeted. “Why do women join terrorist groups? In short, for the same reasons as men.”

Many ladies are dedicated to the trigger voluntarily — though some could also be coerced — making deliberate choices that they imagine will serve their group and redress their political grievances. Even when the household is concerned, says Bloom, when it has joined the organisation collectively, ladies could be simply as dedicated as the lads of their lives. And whereas the lads could play the management roles, significantly in conservative societies, suicide bombing could be a demonstration of the ladies’s dedication, displaying they’re simply as dedicated to the wrestle as the lads are.

In truth, the strongest motivation for many suicide bombers is just believing in a trigger. In the Palestinian resistance and Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, it’s the need for an unbiased homeland. Religious terrorist teams resembling Al Qaeda and the TTP search the overthrowing of corrupt apostate regimes and changing them with ‘true’ Islamic governance. Others dream of aid from oppression and the restoration of their primary rights. In every of those instances, although, these dedicated to the trigger have utter religion in it. For them, their lives — and people of unarmed civilians — are a worth they’re prepared to pay if it’ll serve their group.

A collective historical past of injustice — whether or not perceived or actual — can even feed into the assumption within the trigger, even when one has not personally been harmed. For Palestinians, as Bloom factors out, the First and Second Intifada together with massacres on the hand of the Israelis form a historical past or grievance. For the Irish Republicans, reminiscences of British abuses impressed generations to surrender their lives for the reason for freedom. Shared experiences and shared humiliations, particularly beneath army occupation, play a task on this too.

Many Palestinians recall their fathers’ humiliation at Israeli checkpoints because the exact second after they determined to affix the resistance, based on Bloom. When a whole group experiences comparable incidents of repression, terrorist messages and propaganda resonate much more simply. Not everybody could be part of the terrorists — however some will.

Several outstanding terrorist organisations encourage what terrorism knowledgeable Dr Assaf Moghadam labels a ‘cult of martyrdom’ as effectively. The Tamil Tigers would hand out booklets glorifying suicide bombers who had died for the imaginative and prescient of freedom.

Proud Palestinian households would distribute sweets if a baby grew to become a ‘martyr’ on this means, publishing notices within the weddings sections of newspapers somewhat than the obituaries. Instead of placing up posters of actors or rockstars, youngsters would plaster their partitions with the pictures of Hamas’ grasp bombmaker Yahya Ayyash or Wafa Idris, the primary feminine Palestinian suicide bomber. In Northern Ireland, enjoying playing cards with the pictures of Irish martyrs would go from baby to baby, whereas their photos had been painted in murals on the partitions of Belfast. Knowing that dying will carry such outpourings of respect and admiration from the group could be a highly effective enticement.

In the case of somebody like Shari, understanding why she would perform a suicide assault means understanding that it doesn’t must be a results of direct private struggling, of grief or assaults. It could have merely been the expertise of rising up with the notion that your group was dealing with injustice.

State’s response

None of this will ever justify the killing of harmless civilians. But it’s a reminder that countering militancy requires successful over the inhabitants. In any irregular battle, gaining the assist of the folks and addressing their grievances is what offers one the higher hand.

The KU assault is a horrifying wake-up name that Baloch militancy is alive, and its ways could also be evolving. Pointing out that ladies make up round 23 per cent of terrorist teams, Davis believes there are “probably plenty of women in the BLA with ‘invisible’ roles like recruiters, financial facilitators, etc.” Given the tactical advantages, it isn’t unlikely that ladies could play a bigger function within the BLA’s army operations sooner or later too.

There are reviews already of Baloch college students being focused at universities within the aftermath of the KU assault. This might have devastating long-term ramifications within the form of radicalising extra women and men and widening the recruitment pool for militants.

This is a tactic that has backfired within the faces of different governments previously, in Chechnya, in Sri Lanka, in Iraq. It isn’t a mistake Pakistan ought to make.

Header illustration: Prazis Images/

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