Sunday, December 04, 2005

Terror: Women of Al Qaeda

Work on the Newsweek cover story "Women of Al Qaeda" consumed every minute of my time over the last couple of weeks, which is why no new Shadowland column appeared and no new items were posted on this blog. This is a project we've been looking at since last year, the reporting contributions from our farflung correspondents were wonderful, and I'm pleased with the way the story turned out, but I am also convinced that the interrelated questions of sex, gender and jihad have only just begun to be explored:

Cover Story: Women of Al Qaeda, 4 Dec 2005
Jihad used to have a gender: male. The men who dominated the movement exploited traditional attitudes about sex and the sexes to build their ranks. They still do that, but with a difference: even Al Qaeda is using female killers now, and goading the men.

Dec. 12, 2005 issue - Very little is known about the first woman to become a suicide bomber for Al Qaeda in Iraq, except that she dressed as a man. Two weeks after a U.S.-backed operation to clean out the town of Tall Afar near the Syrian border in September, she put on the long white robe and checkered scarf that Arab men commonly wear in Iraqi desert towns. The clothes disguised her gender long enough for her to walk into a gathering of military recruits with no one taking much notice. The clothes also concealed the explosives strapped around her womb. "May God accept our sister among the martyrs," said a Web site linked to the organization of Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. She had defended "her faith and her honor." No name was given. But the bomb that blew apart that anonymous woman killed five men, maimed or wounded 30 more, and opened a new chapter not only in the war for Iraq but in the global struggle against terror....

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