Saturday, March 28, 2015

IS And Women. Part 3: The Western Female IS Militants


Meet Zahra and Salma Halane, seventeen-year-old twin sisters from Manchester, England who are not currently living the lives of typical British teenagers.  That's because they left England last June to follow their brother, Ahmed, in joining IS/ISIS/ISIL in Syria.  In the short time since then they have both been married to IS militants and they have also both been widowed.

Zahra's online communications suggest that the twins are members of one of the two women's brigades in Raqqa, Syria, possibly the al-Khansaa brigade, which has the task of policing other women's behavior according to the IS version of sharia.  Violations of the sharia code might mean not being adequately covered (say, missing the obligatory face veil) or being out without a mahram (husband, father, brother or adult son).  Some violations result in floggings.

Here Zahra Halane poses in front of the IS flag while holding an AK-47:

Meet Aqsa Mahmood, a twenty-year old student from a fairly affluent family in Glasgow, Scotland.  She is no longer attending to her studies, because she left Scotland for Syria in late 2013 to join IS:

Since then she has married an IS militant and commented online under the name of Umm Laytt.  Some see her as an online recruiter for IS.  Whether that is her official role or not,  her online site  contains suggestions of help for other women who might wish to join IS as well as explanations for her reasons for becoming a female jihadist.  She appears to live in the Syrian "capital" of IS, Raqqa.  Here she is with two other female jihadists (Umm Haritha and Umm Ubaydah)

These are three examples of the women and girls of IS who have independently joined the terrorist movement and cut their ties to their families and previous homelands.  All three come from the UK, but other women have traveled to Syria to  join IS from countries such as France, Germany, Austria, the US, Sweden, Canada and Indonesia.

Who are these foreign women of IS/ISIS/ISIL?  Why do women and girls voluntarily join a terrorist organization which plans for a caliphate where women's rights would be minimal and their freedom of movement nonexistent?  Why do women and girls voluntarily join a terrorist organization which openly practices rape and sexual slavery of "non-believing" women and children, not to mention the beheading of aid workers and journalists?

This is the topic of this post, the third in the series about IS and women (1).  Its focus is not on explaining the reasons why women might "follow their men" to join IS (2), but on explaining why a small group of Muslim women from the West (the lands of the non-believers)  have independently traveled to Syria to support the plans of IS.  Note that the IS form of sharia would absolutely forbid women to do such traveling without the permission of their mahrams.

That is one of the many contradictions of the women of IS.

I begin this post by some ground-clearing.  That involves trying to estimate the relative number of female IS militants, looking at the reasons why IS wants to attract female militants from abroad, describing its online propaganda campaigns to achieve that goal and addressing the likely roles (as opposed to the imaginary ones) that the female recruits may play inside IS.

I then dive deeper into the questions posed above:  What motivates a fifteen-year-old born in, say, England, to leave behind her family, her schoolmates and her future plans in order to become the stay-at-home wife of an IS militant or someone policing other women's morality?

Experts of all sorts have speculated on the possible reasons women have for joining IS.  I look at those reasons, most of which turn out to be the same reasons male militants have for joining such organizations.  But I also  look at the specific reasons a few of the female IS militants have given us in their own words.

In reading this post it's good to keep in mind the subconsciously gendered terms of much of the media conversation on female IS militants:  the hidden assumptions that women are less likely to make rational choices than men, that women and girls are especially susceptible to certain types of propaganda from IS and that women and girls joining IS should be kinder and gentler than the men joining IS and therefore should be more shocked by the brutal violence IS broadcasts to the world.

I conclude the post by asking the obvious questions about women's empowerment (the jihadi girl power) in this thorny context and about the bargains women might make inside themselves when the choices appear to be between personal power on the one hand and political power for one's group or tribe on the other.

Clearing The Ground:  Statistics on Female IS Militants

Women have historically participated in various extremist, terrorist or liberation movements.  According to Katherine E. Brown who studies the issue:

Historically, women make up about 25 percent of the members of terrorist organizations as diverse as the Irish Republican Army, Chechen fighters and the Tamil Tigers, Ms. Brown said. But in the case of the Nusra Front and the Islamic State, the figure is about 10 percent, more in line with the gender makeup of far-right movements, she added.
Other estimates suggest that 10-15% of European-origin IS recruits are women, though that figure includes those who "follow their men."

It's not surprising that the percentage figure for female IS militants best matches the gender makeup of far-right movements, because both far-right and conservative religious movements disallow women most of the active roles in their movements.

Relatively few Western Muslim women have joined IS.  In February 2015 the total number of foreign women in IS was estimated to be at most 550.    Whatever the precise numbers might be today, it's important to note that the vast majority of Muslim women and girls everywhere, including in the West, are not attracted by IS but are much more likely to be disgusted by it.  And clearly most of the IS recruits are men.

The average female IS recruit is young.  Though it has been estimated that most are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, recent media stories tell about girls as young as fifteen or sixteen traveling or trying to travel to Syria from the US, Austria, the UK and FranceSome experts believe that the average age of new recruits is falling.

If that is true, the IS propaganda in the West attracts mere children to its ranks, children who lack the life experience and emotional maturity to understand the bargain they have made with IS or its likely consequences:  rapid marriage, rapid motherhood and possibly rapid widowhood.

Neither are they likely to understand the irreversible nature of that choice.  Some women and girls who have regretted joining IS have been  imprisoned, and even if IS allowed the recruits to return home many would face long prison sentences for abetting and participating in terrorism.  And of course one of the consequences of joining IS is a life always threatened by bombings and the battles IS is waging.

An important feature of the Muslim women and girls in IS is their religious fervor and its flavor (3).  The average target for recruitment is not a moderate Muslim woman or even a conservative one, but someone who accepts the tenets of an extreme form of Sunni Wahhabism, someone who has been exposed to that in either through clerics in the local mosque or elsewhere or online, someone who is willing to believe that IS indeed represents the promised global caliphate of end-times. 

Almost all media stories about Western "jihadi brides" state that the young woman's family and friends were oblivious to her increasing radicalization and thunder-struck by her departure.  That is not necessarily true ( those cases where other siblings in the same family had already departed to join IS), but it does suggest that finding the root cause of someone's radicalization could be difficult.  Few people are going to volunteer themselves as the sources of that radicalization or even point a finger at someone else.

Clearing the Ground:  Why Does IS Want Female Recruits? 

That question has a very simple main  answer:  IS wishes to create a caliphate and needs to have it populated.  Female recruits are expected to marry IS militants, settle down to domesticity and give birth to the next generation. 

Is this what the recruits expect when joining IS?  It's hard to say:

Charlie Winter, of the Quilliam Foundation, said that although Isis propaganda sometimes suggested that women would have an active, and even armed role, the reality was that they were heavily controlled once they arrived.  
Winter suspects that most female recruits might be shocked by the expectation of domestic seclusion, matrimony and childbearing:

 “Young female jihadists who have really sworn in to the ideology and believe in the caliphate … they’re a different kettle of fish. They will be going out expecting to be put in this role, expecting to be married off to a fighter, and to then have children. That’s their way of contributing to the Islamic State programme,” he said.

 Most sources agree that fighting is off-limits for IS women.  But at least in Raqqa, Syria, two women's brigades are employed to police the behavior and morality of local women and to assist the male militants in house searches and at check points (4).  Those roles are filled by women because of the strict gender segregation IS preaches and practices.  A male militant cannot do a body search on a woman (to find out if the person is actually a man, say).

Some Western-origin women also play a propaganda role on the Internet.  The messages they send consist of a mixture of travel advice, religion, pictures of sunsets or delicious meals and threats of violence aimed at non-believers.  That combination of domesticity and violence matters, according to researcher Katherine E. Brown:

She cited images on social media of female recruits cooking, chatting, caring for children and meeting for coffee. At the same time, there are images of women carrying automatic rifles, wearing suicide belts and even displaying severed heads.
The “combination of violence and domesticity” is important, Ms. Brown said, adding that the women were politically engaged and often felt alienated by Western life, mores and politics.

Perhaps the combination matters, because it normalizes the violence?  But it also contributes to the impression that IS is here to stay, that it is a country, a caliphate and a completely new way of living a pure Islamic existence.

The messages also contain material enticements.  As an example, Aqsa Mahmood writes (5)

...and in these lands we are rewarded for our sacrifices involved in our Hijrah [migration to the land of Islam] for example one is by receiving Ghanimah [spoils of war]. And know that honestly there is something so pleasurable to know that what you have has been taken off from the Kuffar [infidels or non-believers] and handed to you personally by Allah swt as a gift. Some of the many things include kitchen appliances from fridges, cookers, ovens, microwaves, milkshake machines etc, hoovers and cleaning products, fans and most importantly a house with free electricity and water provided to you due to the Khilafah [the caliphate] and no rent included. Sounds great right?

She then states that the greatest reward for hijrah will be given in the afterlife.

Why Do Some Western Muslim Women And Girls Join IS?

What would draw a girl or a woman to join a terrorist organization which plans a world harsher than Saudi Arabia for the women in its caliphate and which openly treats non-believing women, men and children as chattel, to be enslaved, raped or killed, as the militants desire?

That is the question I posed at the beginning of this post, and others have posed it, too.  Some of the shock many feel while reading about the female jihadists and their violent rhetoric may be based on the gender stereotype which assumes that women are the kinder and gentler sex (6). 

But there are other reasons to be more surprised by women wishing to join IS than is the case for men.  The gender roles of men in the long-term plans of IS do not clash with their desire for freedom of movement, power or even heroism.  Rather, the IS promises its male members all that.  It even promises the men lots of sex from the enslaved non-believing women and also the legal right to have up to four wives.  Easy divorce for men makes changing those wives fairly simple if the man so desires.

Matters are different when it comes to the women of IS, especially if they end up housebound and with a husband who takes the more extreme interpretations of sharia seriously.  Those make it almost impossible for a wife to divorce her husband or to leave the house without his permission or to disobey him in any meaningful way.

Thus, when we attempt to understand the reasons why some Western women and girls have joined IS we should ideally know if those female recruits understand the bargain they have made with IS or if they expect their stay in Syria to consist of something quite different.  I have not been able to find much about that, though a few of the more vocal propagandists for IS clearly understand the expected role for women (7).

It is perhaps that contradiction in the stories the media tells about "jihadist girl power" ( in the depiction of potential recruits as strong Islamic women),  and the actual planned status of women in the  IS caliphate that is most interesting to me.  Are the female members of IS utterly opposed to gender equality in all areas of life?  All areas except in religion?  Or did they expect a very different life in the utopian/dystopian IS caliphate?

But that contradiction cannot really be investigated until we have more data on the women who have traveled to Syria.

How do the experts explain why Western women and girls might join IS?

Most argue that the women and girls have the same motivations as the men and boys who have joined IS (8).  For example:

While some women are attracted to the idea of marrying a fighter, others “are joining I.S. because it provides a new utopian politics, participating in jihad and being part of the creation of a new Islamic state,” said Katherine E. Brown, a lecturer in defense studies at King’s College London who studies the phenomenon.
Kamaldeep Bhui, a professor of cultural psychiatry and epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London, said that young Muslim women were as likely to be radicalized as men. “There is an increasing epidemic of girls” wanting to join jihad, he said at a briefing organized by the Science Media Center in London.
He found that women with the highest risk of radicalization were most angry about injustice and most tolerant of even violent forms of protest against it.
“The group who sympathized were younger, in full-time education” and more middle-class, Professor Bhui said. “They were more likely to be depressed and socially isolated.”

Recent migrants who were poorer and busier were less likely to have radical sympathies, he said, in part because they remembered the problems of their homelands.

Bolds are mine.


Although there is limited data available, the experts I spoke to believe that women join ISIS for similar reasons that men do. McCants said that men might join the group out of a "desire for adventure, a feeling that they are protecting a persecuted Sunni community, or enthusiasm and fervor that the end times are approaching, and wanting to be a part of it." Those same arguments could appeal to women as well.
Within Iraq, for instance, ISIS's rise has been fueled by sectarian violence targeting Sunni communities, and by the Shia-dominated Iraqi government's marginalization of the Sunni minority.
"Generally, women share the same political culture as the men of their communities," Gowrinathan said, so there is good reason to presume that that the same events that motivate men would also motivate women.

Dr. Erin Saltman, who researches processes of political radicalization, estimates that one in ten of ISIS's foreign recruits from the UK are women. She sees three reasons that ISIS may be appealing to some women in the West; the first two are gender-neutral messages that reach women as well as men, but the third may be targeting women directly.
The first reason, Saltman said, is an "adventure narrative" that encourages young women to think of traveling to ISIS's territory as not just a religious obligation, but an exciting expedition to a "Muslim utopia."
The second narrative was a humanitarian appeal, which presents ISIS's struggle as an effort that began as a fight against the oppressive Bashar al-Assad government and is now even more necessary because "global powers" are turning against Muslims.
And finally, Saltman said, ISIS has successfully targeted western recruits via "romance" narratives. Some of those are directed at women, promising them that they will find a "strong Muslim man, who is a true Muslim, who is fighting for this very heroic cause." (Similar appeals directed at men, Saltman said, talk about how foreign fighters are marrying "young, nubile local women.")
Bolds are mine.

What the "heroic cause" mentioned in the last quote might be deserves a bit more attention.  Perhaps it is the liberation of Syria from the claws of Bashar al-Ashad's government, an attempt to revenge the horrible violence the forces of that government have inflicted on its own people (though by administering even more horrific violence).  Perhaps it is the desire to squash the power of the Shias in Iraq and to get better treatment for its Sunni population (but why then kill and enslave the Yazidis who have no power to speak of?)  Or perhaps it is the idea of a general jihad against the "countries of the crusaders," especially the United States and most of Europe.

That last alternative is one I have seen repeatedly mentioned in the tweets and blogs of female IS militants from the West.  They express anger at Western colonization and oil politics, at the occupation of Iraq, at the American drone attacks and at Western policies concerning Israel and the Palestine.  But they also express extreme rage and contempt towards "the kuffar" or nonbelievers.

Whether tweets about those issues are part of a conscious propaganda policy is unclear.  Still, recruitment would certainly benefit if the current enemies of IS could be more clearly portrayed as only non-Muslims.

That brings me to  the religious motives as a reason for joining IS.  They should not be downplayed. 

The self-declared leader of the "Islamic state" argued that hijrah (migration) to the IS caliphate is a religious obligation for all Muslims, especially those who live in the lands of nonbelievers (9).

And the women of IS who write about their lives online seem to believe that IS indeed is the promised caliphate of the end-times and that all Muslims should hasten to Syria to join IS.

Aqsa Mahmood writes on her tumblr site (10)

The media at first used to claim that the ones running away to join the Jihad as being unsuccessful, didn’t have a future and from broke down families etc. But that is far from the truth. Most sisters I have come across have been in university studying courses with many promising paths, with big, happy families and friends and everything in the Dunyah to persuade one to stay behind and enjoy the luxury. If we had stayed behind, we could have been blessed with it all from a relaxing and comfortable life and lots of money. 
Wallahi that’s not what we want, and in these lands we are rewarded for our sacrifices involved in our Hijrah...
 My dear brothers and sisters who are stuck in the west and restrained due to the kufr [infidel,nonbeliever] governments know that indeed the help of Allah swt is always near, have Sabr [patience] and know that you will never be tested beyond your ability. And to those who are able and can still make your way,  please ittaqillah [fear Allah] and don’t delay anymore, hasten hasten hasten to our lands and live in Izzah [might, honor etc.] before it is made difficult for you. Know that these trialing times and do not miss out on any of the ajr [plus points]. This is a war against Islam and it is know that either “you’re with them or with us”. So pick a side…

And another female IS militant posted this picture online:

Finally, it's worth thinking about the many examples of young teenagers leaving their families and traveling to Syria (11).  Is a sixteen-year-old girl capable of understanding what her decision to join IS will mean for her and her family? I seriously doubt that the sixteen-year-old me would have been able to understand everything that is at stake.

Perhaps the Western women of IS join for reasons which are as rational or as irrational as the reasons Western men of IS have.  But children's reasoning is different.  That IS eagerly accepts those children and marries them to its fighters shows the focus on women and even young girls as child producers.

The Jihadi Girl Power?

What should we make of this phenomenon, limited as it is, of some Western Muslim women joining IS?  Are the joiners "strong women," demonstrating what some have called the "jihadi girl power?"  Or are they the "jihadi brides",  only traveling to Syria to marry the Prince Charming with the regulation beard,  the Koran and the AK-47?   Or is it pictures of kittens, sunsets and luscious desserts that attract young women to join IS?

Everything in that paragraph has cropped up in the media coverage of the women of IS as speculations about what attracted them to a terrorist organization (12), and nothing in it truly helps us to understand the  contradictions between the concept of a "strong Muslim woman," not at all oppressed (as many IS women state on Twitter)  and the desire to join a caliphate with an extreme form of male supremacy as a divinely-ordained rule, never to be altered to the slightest degree.

Yet it is that very contradiction I see in many of the photographs about IS women and girls, including the three below:

Note the anonymity of the women in the dress which reflects the most extreme interpretation of what Mohammed might have meant with the statement that women are to cover what should not be seen (apparently that includes everything), then note the body language of those same women which is assertive, even threatening.  Note the little girls with black outfits and head veils posing with guns.

The contradiction becomes even more visible when we remember that IS does not allow women to actually fight.

What women can do is to police the behavior of other women, and those in the morality brigades do carry guns.  Women can also preach to other women and give them online advice on traveling to Syria.

Thus, the "jihadi girl power" is power when looked at from one angle (showing open anger at those not in IS or at those who are non-believers), but it is not power at all within the IS society, where the proper roles of women are determined by the male leadership.

How to interpret all that within feminist thought?  Is it feminist if a woman freely chooses her own oppression (or believes that divine powers want to see her oppressed)?  That would be a ridiculous example of "choice feminism" (though I've come across that view on the fundamentalist blogs of American women).

Yet there is a slight sense of something different in this new model of the extreme fundamentalist woman, perhaps an attempt to expand the female role ever so slightly.  For instance, from an article published last October:

Just 10 days ago, an all-woman jihadist group calling itself Al Zawraa announced its establishment on the Internet, saying that it sought to prepare women for jihad by teaching them Shariah, weapons use, social media and other online tools, first aid, sewing and cooking for male fighters (“the heroes of the religion”).

And on the formation of all-women morality brigades in Raqqa:

In other words, whatever job the group was formed for, the women of the al-Khansaa Brigade aren’t just staffing checkpoints anymore. Hegghammer says whether or not female morality enforcement brigades spread more widely, their presence in Raqaa is indicative of a bigger, slow-moving shift toward allowing women “more operative” roles in the jihadi movement. “There is a process of female emancipation taking place in the jihadi movement, albeit a very limited (and morbid) one,” Hegghammer says.
What is morbid about that emancipation is naturally its context:  The power gained by these women comes at the expense of other women, not as increased power for women within the very patriarchal IS organization.  And there is no way to know if even that limited power would be allowed to the IS women in the long run.  I doubt that, given the religious teachings of the IS clerics.

Maybe the most suitable ending to this very long post is to quote from Nimmi Gowrinathan who in Foreign Affairs writes about the very question of women and violent terrorism:

Reports that women have formed their own brigade within the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have confounded experts -- and worried them. For many, the idea of women as violent extremists seems paradoxical. After all, why should women want to join a political struggle that so blatantly oppresses them?

That question reveals more about the experts than the fighters. Those who ask it assume, first, that women are more peaceful than men by nature; and second, that women who participate in armed rebellion are little more than cannon fodder in a man’s game, fighting foolishly for a movement that will not benefit them. As the women of ISIS prove, both assumptions are false.

Gowrinathan points out that women and men share most of the same circumstances, and if the ethnic or religious group they belong to faces oppression and discrimination, the grievances women and men will be largely identical.  She gives an example from Tamil Tigers:

In 2005, I visited Sri Lanka to understand what drove women to join the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a separatist terrorist group that sought an independent Tamil state on the island while also preserving culturally entrenched gender roles. For female commanders, security appeared to be a primary motivator. “The constant fear of living in militarized areas made me realize that life is unfair for Tamils,” said one commander. (For safety reasons, the commanders declined to be named.) “So, I wanted to fight for equal rights.”
Other female Tigers cited rape, or the fear of rape, by government forces as a central reason for joining the movement. As both a political act and a gendered one, rape is a unique motivator. “I was vulnerable because I was a woman, but I was targeted because I was a Tamil,” said another female commander, reflecting the inherent difficulty of navigating between identities. Indeed, in the confusion of war, survival can depend on choosing which identity to prioritize. Tamil women, for example, often recognized the patriarchy of the Tamil movement yet still fought for it, tying their hopes for long-term security to a nationalist flag.
Consider the case of another Tamil commander I met, who spent her days patrolling local villages and posting leaflets that listed appropriate dress, hairstyle, and behavior for Tamil women: no short skirts, no short hair, no biking unless seated sideways. She herself sported combat boots and wore her hair short and closely cropped. I asked her how she reconciled the rules on the leaflets with her own decision to buck gender roles and take up arms. She said, “I fight to protect these values, to preserve the Tamil identity from being eliminated by the oppressor.” The role of women thus becomes the anchor for the construction of a national identity.

Bolds are mine.

Gowrinathan also notes that women don't benefit from their extremism in the longer run:

Ironically, of course, female extremism rarely yields gains for women’s rights. In Eritrea, for example, after the victory of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, a secessionist movement in Ethiopia, female fighters were given control of social policy but had no real political voice. It appears likely that women in the envisioned Islamic State in Iraq will also be marginalized after the conflict ends.
All this could be applied to the thought processes of those Western women who have joined IS.  They are fighting for their particular religious views, for the place of those views in the world and for the group with the same beliefs.  This particular fight involves trading personal power for political power (of a sort).  Men don't have to consider similar tradeoffs, because the gender rules of extreme Wahhabist tenets give them both types of powers.

Still, I wonder if women brought up in the West truly realize how much of their personal power they must relinquish for the sake of the end-times caliphate. 

(1) The earlier posts can be found here:  Introduction, Part1 and Part 2.

(2)  Neither does this post cover those female IS members who are originally from Syria and Iraq.  The reason for that omission is that I couldn't find data on them.  See, however, this story of an ex-IS-member from Syria.

I wasn't able to find much material about female militants from those (mostly Muslim) countries which seem to have produced the largest numbers of male foreign fighters for IS.  Some Indonesian women have traveled to Syria, but it's not clear if that travel has been independent of their families.

(3)  I spent a lot of time reading the tweets of women who openly associate with IS.  They are predominantly about the "correct" way of interpreting Islam (their way) and reflect both extreme Salafist/Wahhabist beliefs as well as the usual cherry-picking of those who try to support their own ideas with quotes from holy texts.  In all the tweets I read not a single woman suggested that the migration to Syria (hijrah) could be anything else but a religious obligation for all Muslims.

Noting the importance of Sunni Wahhabism here does not mean that the recruits wouldn't have several other reasons for  joining IS or that there couldn't be recruits whose understanding of Wahhabism and its tenets is flawed or nonexistent.

(4) From the article:
In Raqqa, Syria, which serves as the Islamic State’s de facto capital, women who go out without a male chaperone or aren’t fully covered in public are subject to arrests and beatings.
And often it’s other women who do the arresting and beating.

(5) The terms inside the square brackets are rough translations by me.  Mahmood appears to use the term "Kuffar" in an unusual way, given that IS is fighting largely other Muslims.  But perhaps she refers to the appropriation of property from Christians in Raqqa or elsewhere?

(6)  One very small study of the online behavior of six European women who later joined IS suggests that at least that handful of women relished the brutal violence of IS.

One example of the kinds of tweets which are very common from the women of IS is this series (captured on 3/27/15; note that the Twitter accounts of militants routinely disappear when Twitter bans them):

(7)  I sense a similarity between them and the aunts in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.  The power for both these groups of women lies in their power over other women and in the job of indoctrinating them in the tenets of their societies.

(8) I spot certain differences, however.  The female jihadists from the West are more likely to come from the middle class and to have more education.  They are also considerably younger than the male jihadists.

(9) For a definition and treatment of hijrah as a religious obligation, see here. For one extremist interpretation, see here.

The open letter from over one hundred Islamic scholars to IS states that though hijrah was obligatory during Mohammed's lifetime, it no longer is:

Emigration. You invited Muslims from across the globe to immigrate to lands under the control of the ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and the Levant.[59] Abu Muslim Al-Canadi, a soldier of the ‘Islamic State’, said: ‘Come and join us [in Syria] before the doors close[60] .’ It suffices to repeat the words of the Prophet Muhammed ´Ě║ who said: ‘There is no emigration after the Conquest [of Mecca], but jihad and [its] intention [remain]. And when you are called to war, march forward[61] .’
I don't have the expertise to interpret "jihad" in this context.

(10) The terms in the square brackets are my translations of some terms.

(11) In at least two cases I read about  the girl who left for Syria had recently lost a parent and had then turned to religion.  The radicalization took place in that context of a life crisis.

My hunch is that this might be common among the teenage recruits of IS.  Many of them have straddled two worlds:  the conservative world of home and the Western secular world.  Joining IS offers a third alternative, one which allows rebellion against both the parents and the secular West.

(12)  "Jihadi brides" is often used in the headlines of stories about the Western women who join IS. This example is of the Halane twins portrayed at the beginning of this post.

The "kittens, Nutella and emoji" theory of what attracts women to IS has been extensively ridiculed, including among IS militants.

The "jihadi girl power" comes from this article:
And the women of ISIS may find an enthusiastic fan base among ISIS’s many female supporters internationally. Hegghammer points to the hundreds of Islamist women in Europe who express support for ISIS on social media. “Many of them are eager to portray themselves as strong women and often make fun of the Western stereotype of ‘the oppressed Muslim woman,’” he says. “On social media at least, I think we can speak of a nascent ‘jihadi girl power’ subculture.”

(13)  Gowrinathan's article is not about the foreign women of IS.  That is the reason why I haven't used her arguments earlier in this post.