Medan, Indonesia – On the last day of March, when 25-year-old college dropout Zakiah Aini walked into the Indonesian National Police Headquarters in Jakarta and brandished an air gun, it was initially widely reported, and perhaps it was believed that the perpetrator was a man .
However, in recent years, more and more Indonesian women have been involved in violent attacks across the archipelago, especially when people trained by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria returned and established groups affiliated to the Islamic State (such as Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD)) )after that. ).
Judith Jacob, a terrorism and security analyst at the London School of Economics, told Al Jazeera: “ISIS has established a licensing structure that allows women to participate in more frontline roles.” “By encouraging opportunistic attacks and generally demanding Supporters do their best. This provides women with easier access to participation than the previous command and control structure, which promotes a formal hierarchy that ultimately excludes women.”
Aini’s attack on the police headquarters eventually led to her being shot and killed by the police at the scene, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, Sulawesi Attacked the week before Easter Caused by two suicide bombers who have been married for only seven months.
In 2018, A church in Surabaya, Java, was also attacked by a couple and their four children, Another husband and wife team attacked a cathedral in Cholo, Philippines in 2019. At least 20 people were killed In that attack, dozens of people were injured.
It is believed that all the women involved in the attack are related to JAD, which is sometimes referred to as “ISIL in Southeast Asia.”
Jacob believes that it is important not to eliminate such attacks, nor to speculate that the women involved are simply obeying the orders of the men.
She told Al Jazeera: “Obviously, there are many aspects to doing this, but the first thing to get rid of is this terrible sexist notion that these women are tempted or forced to participate.” These women are actively willing to participate and have always been from Indonesia. An indispensable part of Islamic radicals. The difference now is that they have moved to a more active role or “frontline” role. “
Following Attack on the police headquarters, National Police Director Listyo Sigit Prabowo described Ai Ni as a “lone wolf”, although she wrote a short illustrated manifesto in a letter to her parents and siblings, in which she criticized the so-called “non-fiction The election of “Islamic” institutions, banks and civil servants that do not conform to Islamic teachings, including former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (commonly known as Ahok), Imprisoned for blasphemy in 2017.
Before the attack, she also posted the ISIL flag on Instagram and purchased the weapons she used from a man convicted of terrorism from a man in Aceh Province.
Noor Huda Ismail (Noor Huda Ismail) is a former member of the hardline organization Daru Islam, who has since established the International Peace Building Institute and has carried out anti-radicalization programs and workshops throughout Indonesia .
He said: “Historically, in Indonesia, women have played a more supportive role. Even if they are members of a terrorist family, they have not directly participated in terrorist activities.”
“There is no reason to involve women in terrorism, but most of them are for very personal and emotional reasons.”
He added that these could include issues such as vengeance, salvation, or relationship factors such as the prospect of finding a partner when traveling to Syria.
“Radiation is not gender neutral. Men and women have different experiences. We need to treat gender as a social construction, not biology. For example, men are born with violence, and women are born with the idea of peace.”
However, he warned that research on gender among hard-line people is still in its infancy.
“More research is needed to determine the drivers of women’s participation in violence. The government must work closely with civil society and the private sector to intervene online and offline.”
Even within radical groups, there seems to be some controversy over the role of women.
Signs of despair?
A former male member of JAD spoke to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity. He said that although in ISIL circles, allowing women to participate in attacks on political parties considered as enemy is a “decision to allow or not to participate. “. It usually depends on the team that plans to carry out this type of attack. “
The JAD team he belongs to “does not want to involve women in frontline attacks, while the JAD team in Surabaya uses women as part of its 2018 church bomb attack strategy.”
He added that in addition to the psychological impact of such attacks on the public, female attackers are also used as propaganda tools.
He said: “The ISIS circle allows women to participate in frontline attacks and is used to boost morale.” “The idea is to spread stories like this: Even women dare to sacrifice their lives, what about men?”
However, there may be many ordinary and practical reasons why women play an active role.
“We have seen ISIS call more clearly for women to participate in the jihad against the enemy in 2017. You can see that this is not a feminist breakthrough for ISIS, but since they have established their footing and need to be mobilized, more It is necessary that all sectors of the so-called caliphate will survive.” Jacob said.
Since the beginning of this year, Indonesia’s main counter-terrorism agency Densus 88 has conducted dozens of raids in Indonesia and arrested more than 100 suspects, including Munarman, the former Secretary-General of Indonesia’s Anti-Corruption Agency. Prohibition of the Hardline Organization of the Front of the Defenders of Islam (FPI) and three other senior FPI officials in April and May respectively.
Since the bombing in Makassar and the attack in Jakarta in March, local authorities have also strengthened the security of the entire archipelago due to speculation that since Ai Ni is a woman, it is easier for her to enter the national police headquarters.
Jacob said: “The ISIS call is at a good time to open, and the security forces are slow to plan and participate in the potential of women in attacks.”
“In the Indonesian context, after years of police repression and surveillance, this information has attracted those who communicate with those whose networks have been greatly weakened.”