At Monday’s White House press conference a reporter asked spokesman Sean Spicer about a report that a five-year-old boy was detained at Virginia’s Dulles Airport because of the president’s temporary travel ban, calling into question Spicer’s statement that the ban is necessary to protect American citizens from threats.
Spicer’s response is sure to ruffle feathers: Everyone needs to be vetted from seven countries President Obama had earlier targeted with travel restrictions “to make sure, if there is a five-year-old, that they’re with their parents and that they don’t pose a threat. But to assume that just because of someone’s age or gender, or whatever, that they don’t pose a threat would be misguided and wrong.”
He’s exactly right, despite those who say advocates of the ban are afraid of widows and orphans, as Obama said about GOP politicians who supported such measures back in 2015. Instead of banning women and children, some suggest we let them in and ban only the men—because they’re the real threat, right? Wrong. We know from a great deal of evidence that women and children are involved in terrorist attacks. Even babies are used as cover for terror.
‘Even Women Must Fight’
Just last week, Nigerian officials warned that “babies are terrorists’ newest weapon.”
Female suicide bombers carrying infants set off explosive devices in Madagali on Jan. 13 after they were let through a security checkpoint where they were mistaken for civilians, the BBC reported. The women killed themselves, two babies and four others.
The women — believed to be from the homegrown Islamic extremist group Boko Haram — could signal a horrifying trend of terrorists using infants in order to avoid detection prior to attacks.
That incident “came just two weeks after two teenage girls blew themselves up and injured three civilians at a checkpoint outside Madagali.” As I wrote back in 2015, female suicide bombers and the use of children aren’t freak occurrences.
Since the 1980s, women have accounted for nearly a quarter of attacks in several countries, including Iraq, Egypt, and Israel. Some research indicates that since 2002 women have carried out 50 percent of suicide attacks in Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Chechnya.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times that calls these attackers “Terror’s ‘invisible women,’” “a younger generation of female jihadists has come to believe that acts of violence can be just as liberating politically and spiritually for women as for men. A religious woman can deflect her parents’ or husband’s objections by invoking the name of religion, which trumps all. The new mantra is ‘even women must fight.’”
The Center for American Progress has written that America’s ability to deal with this radicalization is woefully inadequate, making for a gaping hole in U.S. counterterrorism strategy: “terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban continue to exploit uniquely female motivations as a tool to recruit female suicide bombers to attack U.S. soldiers and international aid workers.”
‘The Role of Women Within ISIS Is Increasingly Important’
The fact is, female suicide terrorists are on the rise, and it’s becoming “increasingly important to acknowledge and address this threat to American lives and interests.” In September last year, French police arrested three women planning a terror attack on a Paris train station. Another incident that same month also involved a woman, who was charged in a plot to blow up Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral.
In Nigeria last year, three female bombers entered a safe haven camp “disguised as displaced persons” and killed 58 people. Two of the young women set off their explosives, but the third didn’t when she realized her parents and siblings were among the intended victims.
Jihad experts in Europe issued a warning last summer that “nearly 300 ‘highly educated and tough,’ radicalized French women are currently in Syria with the Islamic State, plotting attacks on their return to Europe.” “Out of the 700 French nationals currently fighting alongside ISIS in Syria, 275 are women. Jihad experts have warned that these women are often better educated than the men, and are more knowledgeable about Islam.”
According to sociologist and Islam expert Farhad Khosrokhavar, “A teenager can become radicalized in less than 10 days.” “Many young women are ‘naïve’ and truly believe that joining an insurgent group like ISIS is ‘exotic’ and in support of a ‘humanitarian cause’, said Mr Khosrokhavar.”
Islamologist Mathieu Guidère agreed, saying “the role of women within ISIS is becoming ‘increasingly important.’” They are also becoming more common the West as ISIS has issued new directives to enlist women. We saw this with the San Bernardino terrorist, Tashfeen Malik, a woman from Saudi Arabia who was following ISIS rules that allowed women to participate in jihad.
Women Are Very Successful Bombers
Terrorist organizations relish using women because they are extremely successful bombers.
Mia Bloom from the International Center for the Study of Terrorism attributes their success to several factors, most notably the fact that many people still do not expect women to be involved in violence. The common social assumption that women are inherently weaker, gentler, and more peaceful than men discounts their ability to engage in such lethal activity. That assumption allows female suicide terrorists to be overlooked by and escape through security inspections in many conflict zones, despite recent attempts to correct this security lapse.
Their attacks are also more lethal. They’re able to more easily reach high-profile targets and carry out more assassinations because of the lack of security focus. For example, “Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s 1991 assassination by a Tamil Tiger female suicide bomber, who was close enough to touch his feet when the bomb went off, shows how much closer women can get to their targets in many scenarios.”
These unique capabilities are probably why women are responsible for 65 percent of all assassinations among groups that use female suicide terrorists, even though they only make up 15 percent of total suicide bombers in these same groups, according to Lindsey O’Rourke.
According to The New York Times, many woman want to join the ranks of ISIS: “Roughly 10 percent of its Western recruits are female, often lured by their peers through social media and instant messaging.”
Indeed, despite stereotypes about their domesticity and passivity — the idea that they must always be under men’s influence or tricked into joining — women are drawn to groups like the Islamic State by many of the same forces as men: adventure, inequality, alienation and the pull of the cause.
Once there, they commit violence against other women, including as part of all-female brigades enforcing female morality codes requiring modest dress and sex segregation. They operate checkpoints and go on home raids; they are also reportedly recruiters, trainers of female suicide bombers, wives and homemakers, fund-raisers and propagandists. They also help sanitize the group’s image by posting photos of themselves drinking milkshakes on Instagram and writing chatty, lighthearted tweets.
The article makes the point that we need to shift our gender stereotypes about the threats of women from terrorist regions. “Terrorists are strategic about using women, in increasingly chilling ways. To fight them, we have to move past simplistic assumptions about gender and terror and get serious about helping women and girls who are on this deadly path, as well as their would-be victims.”
This Extends to Children, Too
Sadly, even children are being radicalized. As I wrote previously, “In Nigeria, four women blew themselves up and a ten-year-old girl with an explosive belt was taken into police custody. CBS News has reported that ‘It is difficult to know how many children have been trained in Iraq and Syria, but there have been reports the number in recent months is in the hundreds.’”
It’s a tactic the Taliban and other terrorist networks have perfected, recruiting children to kill as they yell, ‘Allahu Akbar.’ PBS has reported as recently as this week that children and teens are being trained as ISIS suicide bombers. ‘It’s also a record of one particularly disturbing way the group is trying to expand its influence: training children and teenagers to become the next generation of jihadis,’ PBS writes.
The children who are being trained are sometimes as young as five years old. This ISIS video is a disturbing picture of what we’re facing on the terrorist front. It shows lines of young children participating in drills and chanting verses from the Quran.
As reported in the Huffington Post, child suicide bombings are on the rise.
A study in February for Combating Terrorism Center at West Point military academy that examined Islamic State propaganda on child and youth ‘martyrs’ between January 2015 and 2016, found three times as many suicide operations involving children over the year.
‘They represent an effective form of psychological warfare—to project strength, pierce defenses, and strike fear into enemy soldiers’ hearts,’ the study said. ‘Islamic State is mobilizing children and youth at an alarming rate.’
The Daily Mail reported in 2015 that ISIS has been kidnapping children to brainwash them into becoming suicide bombers. They are taken to bases in Iraq and Syria for training. A 12-year-old boy was caught before blowing himself up in Iraq, terrified but determined to carry out his task. Here are pictures of him bursting into tears when police removed his explosive belt.
The unsettling truth, though, is far more unpalatable. For there is no denying that these children know they are wearing an explosive vest and have been given clear instructions and training regarding who to target and how to cause as many casualties as possible.
In Germany, a 12-year-old local German-Iraqi boy had been radicalized to set off a bomb in his hometown. “The stalkers of the so-called Islamic State have been searching out, grooming and inciting young terrorists in France and Germany for more than a year now,” the report said. “According to the German broadcaster WDR, the boy received instructions for building the bomb via the messenger app Telegram.”
Terrorists Will Exploit Known Loopholes
The effort to use women and children is insidious. Certainly, most are not a threat. That is not the point. The same is true of all immigrants and refugees. Most are peaceful. However, when it comes to bringing unknown refugees and immigrants into the United States from hostile regions that are now training young children and women to be terrorists—and using babies as cover—would it not be wise to vet them as thoroughly as we can?
We simply can’t discern the good from the bad without more information, especially regarding women and children. We must do what we can to determine if they are who they say they are. Is this lacking compassion? Is this not wise? Is a temporary ban that offers exceptions in extreme cases so inhuman?
While many Americans want to show compassion by opening our borders and often cite religious reasons for it, it is not the job of our government to be the savior of the world. President Trump’s first duty and priority is the safety and security of the American people. When we don’t know who the enemy is, it is our government’s duty to do everything it can to find out. This includes vetting anyone who could possibly be a threat.
A temporary ban for these purposes is not evil. It is not bigoted. It is not cruel. It is prudent and considerate as we seek to protect the lives of our loved ones while still doing everything we can to help others in genuine need. Our empathy extends to those seeking refuge, but it also extends to our fellow citizens, our family, our friends, and our neighbors here at home. They deserve a safe haven, too.