Gender and Terrorism (Female Suicide Missions)

Case Study

Female Bombing Beginnings 

Female bombing in Chechenya began during the Second Chechen War (1999-2009) with the mission of Hava Barayeva (June 6, 2000). During this period, 6 unsuccessful female perpetrators (Mareta Dudueva, Zarema Inarkaeva, Sveta Tsagaroeva, Luiza Asmaeva, Zarema Muzhahoeva, Medni Musaeva)[iv] and 30 successful ones have been identified.[v]

Case Study : Zarema Muzhahoeva

Zarema MuzhahoevaAmong unsuccessful female bombers, probably the most shocking is the case of Zarema Muzhahoeva, who agreed to become a suicide bomber in order to pay her former husband’s family for jewelry stolen. After the death of her husband, according to Chechen tradition, Zarema had to give a female infant of 8 months to her father’s parents to live forever with them. Nevertheless, Zarema had been able to convince her father and mother –in-law to allow her to take a child for a walk just to see her for last time. Instead to returning the child to her in-laws, Muzhahoeva (the mother) robed some jewelry of her husband’s family to buy tickets to Moscow where, she believed, she would be able to live together with her daughter. However, she was detected before being able to escape and the child was returned to her former father-in-law.  Zarema Muzhahoeva felt stigmatized in Chechen culture -- robbery is an unpardonable sin that shames an entire family. Without resources and support, she agreed to become a suicide bomber, but in the last minute didn’t detonate the explosive belt and voluntarily (this is often questioned) gave up to the security forces. Despite this (probably more because a policeman died while trying to deactivate the explosive devise) Zarema was sentenced to 25 years of jail. Successful female bombings in Chechenya were all bloody and merciless. Photo: 2004 Zarema Muzhahoeva in prison. 

Shocking Attacks

Probably the most chocking mass female participation in a terrorist act was  the assault on Dubrovka Theatre Centre (23-26.10.2002) which caused the death of 130 civilians.  The attack against the First School in Beslan (September 2, 2004; among terrorists were at least two women) should also be mentioned. It caused the death of 331 persons, most of them children, and wounded around 700.  


[iv] DRONZINA, Tatyana. 2006.  To die or not to die: unsuccessful female suicide bombers in Chechenya. Praxis sociológica, ISSN 1575-0817, Nº. 10, pags. 77-90.

[v] For more information on Chechen case please see Dronzina, Tatyana; Astashin, Vadim. 2007. Chechen Female Suicide Bombers: Who and why. Journal of Human Security, Volume 3 Issue 1;dn=769485220797389;res=E-LIBRARY  

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