Gender and Terrorism (Female Suicide Missions)

Personal Choice

Home of WafaPhoto: 2004 family home of 27-year-old Wafa Idris, from the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, Palestinian bomber responsible for the blast in the heart of Jerusalem — the first woman to commit such an act. She was an activist in the Fatah movement, a divorcee and a paramedic in the Palestinian Red Crescent Society who had been missing for four days before the attack.

Gender Specific?

Has personal suicide choice anything to do with the gender? Some[v] say yes, insisting that suicide is the way women can prove they are as equally capable to fight for the national liberation as men are. Others view it as a means to challenge male-dominated Palestinian society.

“The 2002 Palestinian women bombers, says Hasso, inserted themselves into the political sphere in a gender-conservative period with few challenges to Arab male dominance in formal politics and militant activity. They situated their bodies and explained their actions in ways that both reproduced and undermined gender-sexual norms with respect to violence, politics, and community - corporeally and discursively destabilizing dominant notions of moral order and duty with respect to gender. Not surprisingly, their bodies, actions, and narratives became grist for various stories told by Arabs in the region about their own gender-sexual subjectivities.”[vi] 

It is difficult to insist that the suicide act has some feminist aspect, at least not in the Western sense of the word. Most likely the suicide choice is related to the damaged identity of the perpetrators and the stigma that the traditional Palestinian society imposes on women who in some way have violated the cultural norms of a traditional society.

[v] ISRAELI, Raphael. 2004. Palestinian women: the quest for a voice in the public square through „islamikadze martyrdom”, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol.16, N1, (Spring)

[vi] HASSO, Frances. 2005. Discursive and Political Deployments by/of the 2002 Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers/Martyrs. Feminist Review, No. 81, Bodily Interventions (2005), pp. 23-51,

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