Study: Terrorists Recruit Young Western Women Without Jobs

May 6, 2019

This Monday Feb. 23, 2015 file handout image of a three image combo of stills taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police shows Kadiza Sultana, left, Shamima Begum, center, and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport, south England, before catching their flight to Turkey. Shamima Begum told The Times newspaper in a story published Thursday Feb. 14, 2019, that she wants to come back to London.
Credit Metropolitan Police via AP, file

A new study from psychologists at North Carolina State University suggests that counter-terrorism experts miss an important piece of the puzzle when they focus on the process of recruiting men.

Research assistant and PhD candidate Christine Brugh is lead author of a new report, "Gender in the jihad: Characteristics and outcomes among women and men involved in jihadist-inspired terrorism."

Her team analyzed the characteristics of the women recruited to terrorist groups or plots. Brugh concedes that women make up less than 10% of Western terrorists, at least for now.

"The number of women involved is increasing. And that's, in part, due to targeted recruitment efforts by groups like the Islamic State. So I think that sets out a really important call for us to study them, [that] they are increasing and they are being targeted for recruitment."

Brugh's team found that these women are usually born after 1990, and are legal or native-born residents of their home countries.

Unlike their male counterparts, Brugh said, these women had at least a high school education and no criminal record.

"Men are more often involved in the criminal justice system, and their radicalization can be prevented at that point. That might not work the same way for women."

Brugh said one common risk factor is that most of these women had no recent employment history before being recruited. She says it's in the interest of public safety to study this population further.