Gender and Terrorism (Female Suicide Missions)

Nature of Female Suicide Bomber Behavior

Two Theories

In an attempt to explain the nature of the female bomber, two main sets of theories are used:

  • cultural and
  • rational.

The first puts the emphasis on the impact of religion (usually identified with the Islam)[ix] and identity[x] while the second one views the terrorist suicide act as a rational choice[xi] made by perpetrators.

Female Bomber Ad in Tehran

Photo: 2005 Tehran, Iran. On display at Shohada Museum Female suicide bomber.


[ix] Among these authors are: LEWIS, Bernard. 1987. The Shi’a in the Islamic History. In Shiism. Martin Kramer (ed.), Resistance, and Revolution. Boulder, CO, Westview Press, p. 25; PELLICANI, Luciano. 2004. Islamic Terrorism. Telos; Fall/Winter, Issue 129, рp. 41-53; Hobson, Theo. 2005. War and peace and Islam. July, 23, The Spectator. 

[x] For more details see POST, Jerrold. 2005. The New Face of Terrorism: Socio-Cultural Foundations of Contemporary Terrorism. Behavioral Sciences and the Law 23; HAFEZ, Mohammed. 2006. Rationality, Culture and Structure in the Making of Suicide Bombers: A Preliminary Theoretical Synthesis and Illustrative Case Study. Studies in Conflit and Terrorism, 29; BROOKS, David. 2002. The Culture of Martyrdom. The Atlantic Monthly June 2002;

[xi] For more details see AKERLOF, George and Rachel KRANTON. 2000. Economics and Identity. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115 (3); BERMAN, Eli and David. LATINI. Rational Martirs vs Hard Targets: Evidence on the Tactical Use of Suicide Attacks. A text to be included in Eva Milgrom (ed) Suicide Bombers from Interdisciplinary Perspective, Princetonn University Press.; CAPLAN, Brian. 2006. Terrorism: the Relevance of the Rational Choice Model. Public Choice, 128; CAPLAN, Brian. 2000. Rational Irationality: A Framework for the Neoclassical-behavioral Debate. Esatern Economic Journal, 26 (2); IANNACCONE, Laurence. 2004.  The Market for Martyrs, a paper presented at the Meeting of the American Economic Association, San Diego, CA,

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