Middle East

Female jihadist 'guide' to life under IS

Image copyright PA
Image caption Britain's Aqsa Mahmoud is one of a number of Western women who have gone to Syria to marry IS fighters

Just what exactly is life like for a female jihadist living amongst the extremists of Islamic State (IS)?

A lengthy treatise has been published online in Arabic by female IS supporters in Iraq and Syria, calling themselves the Khansaa Brigades. Aimed primarily at attracting female recruits from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, it sets out to answer questions and debunk myths.

Now it has been translated into English and published by the London-based counter-extremism think-tank, Quilliam.

"It is considered legitimate," says the document, "for a girl to be married at the age of nine."

"Most pure girls," it adds, "will be married by 16 or 17".

From this time onwards she should remain hidden from view, supporting the Caliphate from behind closed doors.

Women, it says, should not be backward, in fact they should be educated, especially about all aspects of the Islamic religion, but only from the ages of seven to 15.

The Western model of emancipated women leaving the house to work, it says, has failed, with women "gaining nothing from the idea of equality with men apart from thorns".

Fashion boutiques and beauty salons are the work of Iblis, the devil, it states.

'Haven for migrants'

This lengthy document was published online on 23 January, but it went largely unnoticed by the international media.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Raqqa has become the de facto capital of the "Caliphate" proclaimed by Islamic State

It appears quite different from the adventurist - often violent - messages posted on social media by female jihadists who have migrated to IS from Western countries.

Women, including an estimated 50 from Britain, are believed to account for about 10% of the thousands of foreign recruits who have crossed the Turkish border to join IS.

The document makes it clear that women's primary role is "sedentary", not to fight but to support the male jihadists in the home, including bearing their children.

Much of the treatise is given over to stressing the normality of life for women under IS rule.

"The state has not forbidden a thing," it says, immediately adding that it has spared no efforts to separate male and female students in colleges.

Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS, is described as "a haven for migrants", where families live "untouched by hunger, cold winds or frost".

"To hell with nationalism," it says, adding that in Raqqa tribes are merged, and the Chechen is a friend of the Syrian, the Saudi a neighbour of the Kazakh.

'Fallen women'

By contrast, it says, women in the Gulf Arab states, notably in Saudi Arabia, face "barbarism and savagery".

It goes on to explain that this includes women working alongside men in shops, appearing in ID photographs, going on Western scholarships or attending "a university of corruption" in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

Saudi TV, comprising some of the most conservative outlets in the region, is described as "television channels of prostitution and corruption" and female writers are branded as "fallen women".

Imported teachers are labelled as spies, spreading "their poisonous and corrupt atheist ideas".

No mention is made of the mass enslavement of Yazidi civilians or the trafficking in underage girls, decapitated heads being stuck on railings in Raqqa or gay men being thrown off seven-storey buildings.

There is a passing reference to the coalition air strikes that target Raqqa and other IS centres.

But the overriding message 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.