The Quilliam Foundation, a UK-based counter-extremism think tank, which has worked with US-based Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC) to examine Islamic State (IS) propaganda videos, has published an English translation of a treatise that aims to attract female recruits to IS.
Originally published online in Arabic by female IS supporters in Iraq and Syria, calling themselves the Khansaa Brigades, and now translated by Quilliam researcher Charlie Winter, it debunks some myths such as education for girls and female fighters. The treatise calls for females to be educated, especially on aspects of Islamic religion, but only between the ages of seven and 15. Imported teachers are labelled as spies, spreading "their poisonous and corrupt atheist ideas."
The document states it is considered “legitimate” for a girl to be married at the age of nine. Most “pure girls," it says, will be married by the age of 16 or 17. After which they are expected to be hidden from view, supporting the Caliphate from behind closed doors.
Their role in supporting IS is seen as sedentary, mainly focused on bearing children, a far cry from the violent messages on social media from female jihadists. It is for this reason, perhaps, that the original authors decided not to make the document available in English – as some of the instruction would not sit well with western women thinking of taking up the IS cause.
Highly critical of western gender equality, the Khansaa Brigades say that female followers should avoid employment as well as shopping and beauty salons, which it says are the work of the devil. At the same time, the document claims “the state has not forbidden a thing."
The overriding message in the 10,000 word manifesto is that women in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states should rush to escape their supposed life of injustice there and migrate instead to the utopia that is Islamic State. No mention is made of the mass enslavement of Yazidi civilians targeted by IS or the trafficking in underage girls.
Is the UK doing enough in the fight against IS?
Meanwhile, a UK Defence Committee report published February 5 stated the United Kingdom “can and should be playing a greater role” in the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria.
The committee emphasized they are not calling for combat troops to be deployed, however, the UK has the expertise and resources to play a much larger role in analyzing the IS threat, contributing the plan to defeat them, supporting the Iraqi forces and encouraging a political solution.
On publication of the report, committee chairman Rory Stewart MP, said, "The nightmare of a jihadist state establishing across Syria and Iraq has finally been realized. [IS] controls territory equivalent to the size of the UK, has contributed to the displacement of millions, destabilizing and threatening neighboring states, and providing safe-haven to an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters, many dedicated to an international terrorist campaign. Yet, the role that the UK is playing in combating it, is strikingly modest."
The committee was shocked by the inability or unwillingness of any of the service chiefs to provide a clear, articulate statement of the UK’s objectives or strategic plan in Iraq. There was a lack of clarity over who owns a policy — and, indeed, whether such a policy exists.
The committee also established that the UK has so far conducted only 6 per cent of the air-strikes against IS, and discovered on its December visit to Iraq there were only three UK military personnel outside the Kurdish regions of Iraq (compared to 400 Australians, 280 Italians and 300 Spanish).
Despite the UK’s long involvement in Iraq, there were no UK personnel on the ground with deep expertise in the tribes, politics of Iraq or a deep understanding of the Shia militia, who are doing much of the fighting.
The report outlined the very significant obstacles facing any mission in Iraq, including the weakness of the Iraqi military, the deep polarization between Shia and Sunni communities and the antagonism between regional players, and wonders whether a strategy of degrading, containing and making ineffectual rather than destroying IS would not be a more realistic and immediately achievable aim and strategy. It argued that both the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Security Forces are in need of structural reform.
The report recommended the UK invest heavily in staff to develop a better understanding of the situation on the ground and to help shape a realistic coalition plan for dealing with IS. It argued once the Iraqi Security Forces and the Peshmerga show increased capability and are ready for major offensives against IS, the UK should be prepared to provide an increased level of support to those operations from the air.
It also recommended the UK should meet the request from the Iraqi army to provide training in counter-IED skills. The committee also recommended significantly increased diplomatic and defense engagement with the key regional powers—particularly Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran—to develop a much more detailed understanding of the potential benefits and challenges of a regional solution.
Such activities as suggested by the committee would require only the deployment of a few hundred personnel. The cost would be relatively modest and would not entail the risks inherent in deploying UK troops in combat roles.
These roles are also consistent with the scale of the £38 billion defense budget, the committee said, commensurate with its global presence, the expectations of Iraq and the Kurdistan region of Iraq, itsstatus as a P5 member of the Security Council, and its traditionally close relationship to the United States.
"We must clearly acknowledge the previous failures in Iraq and reform our approach," Stewart said. "But that does not mean lurching to doing nothing. The UK should find a way of engaging with Iraq which is moderate, pragmatic, but energetic. There are dozens of things the UK could be doing, without deploying combat troops, to work with coalition partners to help address one of the most extreme threats that we have faced in the last twenty years."