سميّة: الانتحارية المحظوظة
Niqash – Kholoud Ramzi (Baghdad) – 21 August 2008:
Sumaya will never forget the day when armed al-Qaeda men forced her to practice wearing an explosive vest under her clothes in preparation for a suicide attack on a local market she was supposed to carry out the following day.
Sumaya’s story began when her husband, Amjad al-Dulaimi, a former officer in the Iraqi army, joined al-Qaeda’s ranks after being recruited by former army colleagues. He had refused when first approached because he feared that his family would be targeted. But, “under financial pressure and with a lack of work opportunities” he was forced to join al-Qaeda, says his wife.
Amjad undertook many tasks such as planting explosive devices on roads, transporting small rockets, attacking army and police convoys and other similar tasks making use of his previous military experience. After less than one year, Amjad was surprised when al-Qaeda’s emir, responsible for his group, ordered the recruitment of women jihadis. Amjad and four other men in his group, brought their wives thinking that they would be required to perform “easy tasks” such as gathering information for fighters.
The next day, the emir arrived with a woman he introduced as a “sister in jihad.” Without revealing her real name, the women met with the five wives and after a half an hour meeting she emerged to tell the emir that she has chosen Amjad’s wife to implement a suicide attack.
Al-Qaeda offered Amjad $5000 in compensation to help him raise his three children. “I still recall those moments when the emir started thanking God and congratulating me for the choice of my wife to become the martyr. I recalled the years I spent in the army away from my family and the hardships Sumaya suffered providing for the family needs. I recalled all these memories while the emir was telling me to recite the Quran as many times as possible and to prepare my wife for the attack.”
“This was a crucial test after which I decided to walk away,” says Amjad. It only took him a few hours to decide to leave al-Ghazaliyah, northwest of Baghdad, where he had lived for more than 20 years and to escape that same day with his wife and family, leaving behind all his possessions, only fearing the consequences if they failed to reach a safe haven before his escape was discovered. The family headed to the Shiite Sadr City, a location beyond the reach of his former al-Qaeda comrades, and lived there with the help of old friends.
According to Sumaya, the request to participate in an attack came totally out of the blue. “When the emir asked my husband to bring me with him, I thought that these people wanted to benefit from the nature of my work as a teacher in order to collect information on the area and its people but I was surprised to be the one chosen for the attack.”
Sumaya said that the “sister in jihad” told them that al-Qaeda wanted to quickly prepare for an attack. “I am obliged to choose the one who is most capable of hiding her load of ammunition.” After a test, she praised the way Sumaya walked carrying a heavy vest of stones and chose her for the task.
Fear prompted Sumaya to cry out. “But I am a mother of three children!” she exclaimed. It was then that the lady told her: “Do not worry about them, we will guarantee their future.”
Sumaya is only one among many female suicide bombers al-Qaeda has attempted to recruit to carry out attacks in Iraq, but one of the very few fortunate enough to escape. The process of recruiting female bombers began when Sajida al-Rishawi was recruited for a joint attack with her husband on a Jordanian hotel in 2005.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Interior 356 people were killed and injured in 16 suicide attacks carried out by women since the beginning of 2008. Another 34 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda women during the last two years. According to information made available to Niqash, the majority of female suicide bombers are trained at a special female camp established by al-Qaeda in Diyala province.
In response, security and tribal authorities in Diyala have recently created a special women’s force specifically to combat female violence. Composed of 150 women trained by US forces, the unit, named the “Daughters of Diyala”, is similar to the armies of awakening councils. It aims to prevent further suicide attacks by al-Qaeda women in security turbulent Diyala province. Awakening councils in Baghdad also initiated a similar endeavor when 100 women volunteered to be trained by US female soldiers on detecting and combating female suicide bombers.
Government officials hope that these endeavors will contribute towards reducing the number of suicide attacks carried out by women. Adnan al-Asadi, undersecretary for the Iraqi interior minister, told Niqash that “security forces have recorded 79 attacks by women suicide bombers since the US entry into Iraq in April 2003.” He said that as emirs and leaders of armed cells have had to go into hiding following recent government security operations, more women have been recruited for attacks.
“The last two months have witnessed seven suicide bombings by women; three were carried out in one day targeting a group of Shiite visitors to the al-Karadah area in Baghdad and the latest was an attack by a 15-years-old girl. An investigation confirmed that the girl was intoxicated when she carried out the attack,” he said.
According to al-Asadi “al-Qaeda has succeeded in mobilizing women suffering from poverty and ignorance as well as widowed women to become suicide bombers. In some cases, belts containing explosive materials have been given to women in order to be delivered to certain people in return for a large sum of money. The explosives carried by these women were then detonated using a remote control device. Sometimes, street girls, not yet 18 years old, have been recruited.”
Yasin al-Azzawi, a social researcher, attributes the reason for women recruits to “the free mobility of women who do not undergo inspection by police and army checkpoints. Thus it is easier for them to carry out such attacks.”
Based on his research over the last two years, al-Azzawi notes that “there has been a big increase in the number of women joining terrorist groups following the relative success of awakening councils in defeating al-Qaeda.” He points out that “Islamist hardliners banned women from participating in jihad against the west before they changed their strategy. In al-Qaeda and Taliban military camps in Afghanistan, women were separated from their husbands and were asked to care for their children to allow men to dedicate their lives to jihad, but in Iraq a need for women’s participation was created when men’s activities became easily detected and hence women became an important factor in Islamic terrorism,” he said.