Johnson's team also found that groups with female members were better at evading online detection for longer. This is no mean feat, as social media companies are working to remove extremist content at an ever-growing rate. Female jihadis can post frequent online updates on social media or initiate private connections with people online to encourage their journey to Syria."It's good for propaganda, for recruiting, to show that Islamic State was bringing people from all over," Reardon explains. "But really their role is also tactical and practical, as they need people if they want to build a state—someone has to run those schools, and they need female doctors, and medics, and other professionals."Fewer men are traveling into Syria, according to Reardon, and the prospect of a suicide mission appears to have lost some of its shine among male recruits. But radicalization campaigns that encourage women to make the journey still appear to be working. According to Johnson's research, women occupy a more important position within recruitment campaigns previously understood, and they pose a great threat to other women—clusters of women become more entangled together on their journey towards radicalization, and they can pull each other deeper into extremism.
We expected death threats; we expected really negative responses.
Younger girls appear to be more susceptible to this form of recruitment. In 2014, three teenage girls from Denver aged 15, 16, and 17, made it as far as Frankfurt on their journey to join ISIS. Analysis of their social media showed that they had been in frequent contact with a number of high-level recruiters. In the U.K., three British schoolgirls aged between 15 and 17 also left their East London homes for ISIS territory in February of 2015. Police believe it was a result of being in contact with Asqa Mahmood, a 21-year-old Scottish woman who travelled to Syria at the end of 2013 and went on to become one of the group's most prolific propagandists.So far, the One to One program has been surprisingly successful. "We expected death threats; we expected really negative responses," Dow explains. "We had lots of measures in place in case we received an immediate threat of violence. We actually didn't receive any death threats, and in total we only received two negative responses."Of the people they found online, 60 percent started to engage with the former extremists, with a similar amount entering into what Dow describes as "sustained engagement," defined as an exchange of at least five messages and a "meaningful conversation" taking place.Amira was by far the most successful of the formers at initiating and maintaining contact; 90 percent of the girls and women she contacted replied to her, which was by far the highest response rate in the group. She admits to feeling close to several of the young girls and women, but she says felt "more of a responsibility towards them," as she gently convinced them to put their faith in her and not their Islamist recruiters. Her tone was measured to be casual, non-judgmental, and caring.
Women who have adopted a conservative strict version of Islam feel as though they don't belong [in the U.K.].