IS is not the first jihadi movement to attract female followers. Many of its predecessors — including al-Qaeda — also had their share of female supporters. Yet the meteoric rise of IS appears to have brought about a leap in the nature and extent of women’s roles within jihadi groups. Alternatively, one could suggest that the increased assimilation of women into the organisation in itself contributed to IS’s swift ascent.

What is certain is that women have become indispensable to IS, both in conflict areas and in the West (including in the European Union). They play their role in the organisation’s state-building enterprise, produce and disseminate propaganda and have seemingly been granted more proactive roles on the ‘battlefield’. The worry is that this increase in the involvement of women could pave the way for potentially major changes in the role of jihadi women in the future…

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