Islamic State Seeks to Increase Manpower – by Shifting Narrative on Womens Role in Jihad, IHS Markit Says

Dwindling pool of male militants leads the group to seek out untapped resource: female fighters

The Islamic State is urging women to become actively engaged in its battles, in a significant ideological move that highlights the groups bid to increase its manpower, according to new analysis has released from Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit.

Facing heavy attacks in Raqqa and Tal Afar and with rapidly shrinking revenues and territory, Islamic States decline appears almost irreversible, IHS Markit says. In the wake of depleting numbers of male militants, the group has begun to adjust its narrative to appeal to an untapped resource – female fighters.

Despite Islamic States claims to the contrary, urging women to seek an active role in combat is most likely an attempt to reduce the impact of severe manpower shortages caused by the decimation of male fighters, and a recruitment crisis, said Ludovico Carlino, senior analyst, Middle East and North Africa at Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit.

While Islamic State has used female suicide bombers in the past, it has not done so in the concentration seen in Mosul, where current estimates of female-led suicide bombings stand at more than 40, Carlino said. It is as yet unclear whether the spike in female suicide bombings is simply a result of the final pockets of Islamic State resistance or women compelled by the group to execute those attacks, or whether it represents the beginning of a wider trend of female fighters willing to take part in the groups battles.

Foreign fighters wives and widows targeted 

The latest edition of Rumiyah, Islamic States online magazine, indicates a revisal of previous messaging surrounding the role of women. In an article entitled Our Journey to Allah, the author (likely a woman) emphasizes that the role of women is of increased importance, as ahead of us await times of intense trials and extreme hardships, and times of severe battles.

Rumiyah magazine is released in several western languages, including French, German and English, indicating that this call is primarily directed at a Western audience, likely the wives and widows of foreign fighters still living in the groups self-proclaimed Caliphate.

This rhetoric marks a stark contrast to previous propaganda that had highlighted womens primary function as wives and mothers of mujahidin, Carlino said. Historically, women have been absent from Caliphate institutions, with the single exception of an all-female brigade responsible for policing women in Raqqa – enforcing non-Islamic dress infringements and ensuring that women only leave their house when accompanied by a male relative.

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