• Sweden's news in English

'Sweden should target women extremists more'

The Local · 1 Sep 2015, 07:43

Published: 01 Sep 2015 07:43 GMT+02:00
Updated: 01 Sep 2015 07:43 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Since Islamic State (Isis or IS) proclaimed its caliphate over a year ago, the need for various types of support for community building has increased. As a result female recruitment has also escalated.

Not only warriors are in demand in the caliphate; women are lured by promises of getting a central role in the new Islamic state.

Swedish migration to Isis is the largest in the Nordic region in terms of numbers, and the second largest in Europe in relation to population size.

According to Säpo (the Swedish security police), over 300 people have travelled to Syria to fight for movements like Islamic State, with the confirmed figure for female travellers standing at 30-40 individuals.

The majority of these people come from western Sweden and Gothenburg. Just as for male Isis supporters there is a great risk that there are large hidden numbers.

Right now there is an intense debate about how the prevalence of violent Islamist extremism can be prevented and managed.

Sweden is far behind other countries in the prevention and implementation of legal sanctions, despite the high number of Swedish Isis travellers and an elevated threat of Islamist terrorism. The awareness of Swedish women’s connection with Islamic extremist movements is also non-existent or at best inadequate.

In traditional terrorism research the image of female extremism has often been misleading. In many respects, the female followers of movements such as Isis are portrayed as more peaceful than men.

This has led to the common notion that female Isis members are somehow forced into an extremist environment. Women have therefore not been regarded as the same potential threats as men.

This approach has impacted on Sweden’s efforts against violent Islamist extremism.

In the government’s action plan against violent extremism it is argued that women in violent Islamist environments are not part of the direct security-threatening activities. Mona Sahlin, who is the national coordinator against violent extremism, has repeatedly described women’s choice to join Isis as a result of having been tricked into travelling.

In addition, Säpo claims that participation of women in Islamic extremist movements is difficult to assess and reports that their efforts have therefore instead focused on male Isis followers.

READ ALSO: Why are Swedish girls joining Isis?

Today, there is no targeted action against violent Islamist extremism in general and female recruitment to Isis in Sweden in particular. This is despite the fact that recent research points out female Isis followers as a growing security threat. The reports have looked at female access to and presence in Isis, pointing to a number of areas where women are directly involved in the movement.

In addition to traditional roles such as wives and mothers of warriors, women take on a number of operational tasks, such as recruiting other women, spreading propaganda or as police in female brigades.

It has also been shown that women within Isis are permitted to have different amounts of power and access to information depending on their matrimonial status in the movement’s hierarchy. The wives of men in higher positions have access to more information about the operations and operating activities.

Although Isis officially forbids women from taking part in hostilities, several of its Western female followers have shown a willingness to fight.

Story continues below…

There have also been reports suggesting that women, albeit to a small extent, have begun to participate in hostilities. Moreover, women who have travelled to Isis territories to support the operation have been encouraged to carry out acts of violence in their home countries.

There are many indications that female Isis followers as well as men are a security threat inside and outside of their home countries. But Sweden still bases its attitude towards women in extreme environments on false premises.

Today the greatest terrorist threat to Sweden is violent Islamist extremism. The problem grows in scope as more and more Swedes travel to join movements such as Isis. The fact that women choose to join this type of extreme environment expands and complicates the threat further.

Swedish work against violent Islamist extremism urgently needs to be developed, in particular in respect to female extremism. Continuing to disregard female recruitment to violent extremist environments is to ignore a serious potential security threat.

Jessica Katz is the author of a new report on Swedish women in Islamic State. Katarina Tracz is the director of the Swedish think tank Frivärld. This a translation of an article originally published in Göteborgs Posten.

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
Should Swedes think fairtrade with porn? Photo: Karin Malmhav/SvD/TT

A fairtrade attitude to pornography would be beneficial, Sweden's health minister told The Local.

Presented by Stockholm University
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

Nordic fashion took centre stage in the Swedish capital last week as Stockholm University hosted the “first-ever” academic conference looking at luxury and sustainability in the fashion industry.

Referee, coach and parents in Swedish youth football fight
File photo of a referee holding a red card not related to the story. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

A football dad broke his leg in the brawl in front of 11-year-old kids after a Hammarby youth football game.

Illicit abattoir kept more than 100 bulls' penises
A couple of young bulls not related to the story. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Dried cattle genitalia, goats' heads and hundreds of litres of lard were just a few of the many strange finds discovered when police raided a property in Sweden.

This is officially Sweden's most beautiful beard
The most beautiful beard in Sweden. Photo: Memo Göcek

According to a jury of barbers and 'well known bearded profiles', that is.

Presented by Invest Stockholm
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm

You might think it’s hard to make friends in a new city. But if at first you don’t succeed – try something else!

Injured Swedish photographer protected by 'guardian angel'
Swedish photographer Paul Hansen on another occasion. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Photographer Paul Hansen thanked his lucky stars for surviving sniper fire while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq.

How Sweden is trying to smooth relations with Saudis
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven meeting Saudi Arabia's Trade Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has visited Saudi Arabia a year and a half after relations turned frosty in a major diplomatic row.

My Swedish Career
'Swedish people love it, but they find it quite odd'
Scottish entrepreneur William Macdonald. Photo: Michael Campanella

Meet the web developer and entrepreneur using traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing to break the ice with Swedes.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available