Women are playing an increasingly significant role in terrorism. As men are progressively targeted by security personnel, using female operatives provides terrorist organizations with a “win–win” scenario; if security forces avoid invasively searching women for fear of outraging the local conservative population (based on social norms of women’s modesty and the honor code), women are the ideal stealth operatives. If security personnel are too aggressive in searching women, they aid terrorist recruitment by outraging the men in that society and providing the terrorists with propaganda that “our women” are being violated. In most conflicts, women remain an untapped resource. Recruiting women allows terrorist organizations to access an additional 50% of the population. Attacks by females generate greater media attention than those conducted by men. This is especially relevant when media attention is one of the terrorists’ main objectives. Although women’s involvement in terrorist and extremist activities is not a recent development, their presence as frontline activists, propagandists, and recruiters is increasing around the globe.
David C. Rapoport
The First Wave of global terrorism began in Russia. After Russia was humiliated in the Crimean War (1853–1856), Czar Alexander II decided to make it more like Western states which seemed so much stronger. In 1861, he freed 25 million serfs, roughly one third of Russia’s population. He then established local self-governments, “Westernized” the judicial system, abolished capital punishment, greatly expanded universities, etc. But the changes proved difficult. The serfs had little money to buy properties necessary for their livelihoods, and the Czar refused to establish a national legislature. Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will), a small group greatly influenced by anarchists, was formed in 1879, and in 1881 it assassinated Alexander II. Members were university students; women constituted one third of the group, the first time women had ever been involved in terrorist activity. Russian terrorism persisted for 40 odd years, though individual groups rarely lasted more than 5 years. Assassinating prominent public figures was the principal tactic, and martyrdom was then sought in court trials. Efforts were always made to seek international support, i.e., foreign bases, Diasporas, other radical groups, etc. Two kinds of terrorist groups emerged on six continents: nationalists and anarchists. Anarchists produced the “Golden Age of Assassination” (1892–1901) in which more monarchs, presidents, and prime ministers were assassinated than ever before. The Wave’s high point was from 1890 to 1910. But that high point produced furious antiterrorist sentiment and no significant support from the poor, forcing many anarchists to abandon assassination and seek other methods like syndicalism for achieving their goals. Major counter-terror practices were developed that are still employed. Police forces were re-made. They had always worn uniforms and responded to illegal actions after they occurred, but pre-emption efforts were then required to make it impossible for acts to happen. Uniforms were removed to observe actions without being identified in the process and to enable infiltration. Prisoners could not be treated as criminals. To avoid producing martyrs, Russia abandoned public trials. In 1 year, more than 1,000 were sentenced to death and were hanged or shot secretly within 24 hours. The treatment of criminals depended on the acts they committed. But terrorists had information about actions others would do, and torture was revived everywhere to gain that information. Terrorists could not be treated as prisoners of war because they did not follow the rules of war.