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Female Militants Publish Extremist Manifesto on the 'Women of the Islamic State'

The lengthy treatise is believed to have been composed by an all-female militia to dispel “the confusion that has emerged of late” regarding the role of Muslim women in the self-declared caliphate.
Image via Quilliam Foundation

A female Islamic State militia recently published a document that attacks the "deceptive Islamic model" of Saudi Arabia and lays out a manifesto for women interested in joining the terror group's self-declared "caliphate" in the portions of Iraq and Syria that it controls.

The treatise, which is titled "Women of the Islamic State" and more than 10,000 words long, is believed to have been composed by the communications department of the al-Khanssaa Brigade, an all-female force sponsored by the Islamic State. An Arabic version was uploaded to a forum for Islamic radicals in January. The Quilliam Foundation — which bills itself as "the world's first counter-extremism think tank" — has just published a translation in English.


The document opens by asserting that "the era of Western dominance and its influence on our lifestyle and way of living has passed." The message is apparently aimed at women living in the Gulf states — particularly Saudi Arabia. Its introduction notes that the text "should not be considered a constitution that has been decided upon by" the Islamic State, or be viewed "as an official framework for women." It is instead meant to dispel "the confusion that has emerged of late" regarding the role of Muslim women in the Islamic State.

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The authors posit that it is acceptable for a girl to be married at the age of nine, noting that "most pure girls" will marry by the time they are 16 or 17, while "still young and active." The text also describes the "ideal" education for a female, which it says should begin when they are seven, and end when they are 15, "or a little earlier."

'They're playing at being a state. Just as a state needs doctors, lawyers — that kind of thing — a state needs women.'

During this time, female students should be taught textile skills and knitting, basic cooking, and instructed in child-rearing methods. Basic science should be included in the curriculum during the early education period, while the focus in later years should be on Sharia, Islamic history, and a study of the life of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers.


In a passage that dismisses Arab physicians and scientists from the Islamic golden age as "heretics," the document suggests that Muslim boys and girls alike should not spend a "short life learning of the worldly sciences that give no spiritual reward, apart from that which repulses the might of the infidels and benefits Muslims." The focus should be on worship and the development of religious knowledge.

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Charlie Winter, the Quilliam researcher who translated the manifesto, told VICE News that it offers an interesting look at the use of targeted propaganda on the part of Islamic State recruiters. The recruitment of women has been fundamental to the effort.

"They're playing at being a state," he said of the radical Islamist group. "Just as a state needs doctors, lawyers — that kind of thing — a state needs women."

Winter explained that when the group tries to attract Western women, it tries to appeal to those attempting to find their way in life by inviting them to "join a sisterhood" and "become a founding member of a new state." But the emphasis in this text is more on ideas that he said are meant to connect with extremist women in Saudi Arabia.

"It's very clear that a lot of the images, ideas, and grievances that emerge in it are deliberately chosen because they resonate with women who have grown up in a country where a very austere interpretation of Sharia law has been implemented," Winter noted.


The descriptions of the appropriate cultivation and conduct of Muslim women in the manifesto are intended to illustrate what he characterized as the "idealized role of women in the Islamic State," living largely sedentary lives in which they are subordinated to Muslim males.

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According to the guidelines on offer, a woman's natural place is in the home while carrying out the orders of her husband. Apart from studying religion outside of the house, women should generally only leave their residence if "the enemy is attacking her country and the men are not enough to protect it," or if she is a female doctor or teacher.

"The problem today is that women are not fulfilling their fundamental roles, the role that is consistent with their deepest nature, for an important reason, that women are not presented with a true picture of man, and because of the rise in the number of emasculated men who do not shoulder the responsibility allocated to them," the document says.

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd