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Forced Female Suicide


January 22, 2004

Are Palestinian female suicide bombers active members of a Death Cult, or unwilling participants in it? Are they religious fanatics, Western-style revolutionaries, or clinically depressed human beings facing No Exit lives? Have they been indoctrinated and brainwashed by master seducers or have they been brutally forced into it?

These are necessary questions to ask when contemplating the emergence of a new female form of suicide bomber. Certainly, some female Palestinian suicide bombers have “freely” chosen the murderous martyr’s path: most likely, such women have had close male relatives who have died in the war that the Palestinians have declared against the Israelis.

But evidence also suggests that the Palestinians have created yet another form of Arab honor killing. For some time now, reports have reached my desk about Palestinian girls and women being recruited, seduced, and trapped, by older male terrorists in very woman-specific ways.

For example, I have been told that in one instance, the chosen Palestinian girl was unmarried and pregnant. She was offered the chance to “cleanse” her honor by blowing herself and Jews up. Her family spirited her out of the West Bank to safety in Europe. I have also been told that some Palestinian masters of mass murder have themselves had affairs with vulnerable young Palestinian girls in order to compromise their “honor” and to season them, pimp-style, for martyrdom. Hard fact are hard to come by, anecdotes abound.

Journalist Barbara Victor, the author of the recent book about Palestinian female suicide bombers, Army of Roses, and playwright Glyn O’Malley, whose play, Paradise, is on the same subject, have both dealt with some of the earliest Palestinian female suicide bombers whose lives were stunted by oppression.

Wafa Idris, the first Palestinian suicide bomber, was probably in a clinical depression. Her first and only child had been a stillborn and, as a result, she was now sterile. Her husband, who was also her first cousin, had divorced her over this and had already taken a second wife. She was mocked by family and friends and she understood that she had no future in Palestinian society. As a divorced and infertile woman, she was doubly “tainted.” Her bleak prospects – due to Islamic and Palestinian misogyny and not to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – were used to trap her into redeeming her dishonor by becoming a murdering martyr.

We cannot say that these women (or, for that matter, their male counterparts) are making “free” choices. No one is offering them the presidency of their country, an all-paid scholarship to a prestigious university – or, as a third choice, the opportunity to kill and die at a tender age. Their choices are “forced.” They are probably not political extremists or revolutionaries in the Western sense. They have grown up in a tribal, Islamic society in which women are expected to sacrifice themselves in terrible and medieval ways.

Most recently, the case of Reem al-Riyashi suggests a similar and horrifying scenario. Several Israel sources have discovered that this young mother of two very young children “was forced to carry out the suicide attack as punishment for cheating on her husband.” Allegedly, al-Riyashi’s husband was a Hamas activist and her lover was a Hamas operative who had carried out the love affair with the express purpose of recruiting her. According to the British Sunday Times, al-Riyashi’s husband himself drove her to the border crossing.

This is unbelievable – and tragic. Had these men threatened to kill her children if she refused this mission? I would not be surprised.

Whatever the tragic circumstances, it is important to understand that the coercion of women by men to become suicide bombers is not an aberration in the Middle East. Myth aside, Islam is the largest and most savage practitioner of religious and gender apartheid on the planet. If you attend college in the Western world, you’d have no way of knowing this – perhaps this is because many Western multi-cultural ideologues have muted their criticism of Islamic misogyny in order to propagandize for the victory of the Palestinians over the Zionists.

Traditionally, gender apartheid under Islam includes female genital mutilation, compulsory veiling, arranged marriage, sequestration, polygamy, stonings for alleged adultery, approved wife-beating, and Arab honor killings in which raped girls and women are killed by their father or brother for the crime of “dishonor” they have brought upon their family.

It is this context that compels us to stop romanticizing these homicide bombers – and presenting them as heroes.

I understand what the Israeli ambassador to Sweden felt when he saw the exhibit that glorified yet another Palestinian female suicide bomber: Hanadi Jaradat, who killed 22 innocent Israeli civilians, both Christian Arabs and Jews. Jaradat’s smiling, serene face floated above a pool of civilian blood The artwork had been done by an expatriate Israeli artist and installed at the entrance to a building that is to house an upcoming conference against genocide. The Swedes had promised the Israelis that the Middle East conflict was not going to be part of the conference.

But this art exhibit found a way to bring the Middle East conflict into the conference – in a way that justified and glorified homicidal/genocidal suicide bombers who, upon closer inspection, may be committing a “forced” suicide as their only way out.