Ebook: Gender Mainstreaming in Counter-Terrorism Efforts in the Western Balkans
Amplified by a volatile security environment, technology and globalization, terrorism and violent extremism have become a genuine threat on a global level, and the ability of terrorist groups to capitalize on local issues such as poverty and inequality have helped to fuel the process of radicalization and recruitment. The region of the Western Balkans is not immune to these trends, and the gender component has been recognized as an important aspect in efforts to counter and prevent such practices.
This book presents edited contributions delivered at the NATO Advanced Training Course (ATC) “Gender Mainstreaming in Counter-terrorism Efforts in Western Balkans” held from 16 to 21 May 2021. The event was designed to explore gender perspectives in counter-terrorism efforts in the Western Balkans and in the wider security-sector, and to analyze drivers to radicalization through the lens of gender. This ATC brought together more than 50 military and civilian participants from 7 countries in the Western Balkans and south-eastern Europe and 35 expert lecturers. Topics include the legal and political framework of gender mainstreaming; the role of technology; the drivers, motivations and roles of women in radicalization and extremist groups; counter-terrorism and gender; gender-sensitive approaches to counter terrorism; gendered perspectives from the frontline; the prospects for women’s leadership roles in community-based approaches; and challenges to the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in the Western Balkans.
Highlighting critical components and providing a unique insight which contributes to the academic debate on gender mainstreaming in P/CVE and CT efforts, the book will be of interest to all those involved in countering the spread of terrorism worldwide.
Terrorism and the violent extremism amplified by the volatile security environment, modern-day technology and globalization processes have become a genuine threat on the global level. The ability of the terrorist groups to adapt and to adjust their tactics to the new security environment capitalizing on the local issues (such as poverty and inequality) have contributed to the development of a compelling narrative that assists in the process of radicalization and recruitment of many adherents and followers. The Region of the Western Balkans is not immune to these trends and numerous indicators attest to this claim.
The reports about numerous individuals who have joined foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq from the WB region are alarming indicators.1unmapped: fn unmapped: label 1 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-bosnia-idUSKCN0YZ1VC http://stratpol.sk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Metodieva_Returnees_Western_Balkans_Stratpol_FINAL.pdf https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/2017-eu-terrorism-report-142-failed-foiled-and-completed-attacks-1002-arrests-and-142-victims-died
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-bosnia-idUSKCN0YZ1VCAccording to some estimates, a significant number of individuals taking part in the battlefields in Iraq and Syria varies between countries.2unmapped: fn unmapped: label 2
http://stratpol.sk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Metodieva_Returnees_Western_Balkans_Stratpol_FINAL.pdfDifferent reports suggest that approximately more than 800 fighters from the Western Balkans have left their domicile countries to take part in foreign battlefields.3unmapped: fn unmapped: label 3
https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/2017-eu-terrorism-report-142-failed-foiled-and-completed-attacks-1002-arrests-and-142-victims-diedThe ‘foreign fighter’ phenomenon is further amplified by the returnee threat and estimates that these individuals may commit terrorist acts when they come back.
Against this backdrop, the gender component has been recognized as an important aspect of the efforts of countering and preventing such practices. Albeit dominant misconceptions of passive and subordinate roles of women (which are often viewed as victims), the reality is quite different. The role of women (in both negative and positive terms) can be diverse.
On the one hand, women can be active facilitators of terrorist activities (either compelled or on voluntary bases) whose contribution can range from indirect support (through planning, facilitating, or abetting the terrorist activities) to a direct role as perpetrators of terrorist violence. The active involvement of more women in terrorist groups and activities is on the rise. The Region of the Western Balkan is no exception to these trends. Several reports suggest that numerous women from the Western Balkan Region have joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, predominantly from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.4unmapped: fn unmapped: label 4 Atlantic Initiative, “The Lure of The Syrian War: The Foreign Fighters’ Bosnian Contingent”, available at https://wb-iisg.com/docs/the-lure-of-the-syrian-war-the-foreign-fighters-bosnian-contingent/ (p.26); https://wb-iisg.com/wp-content/uploads/bp-attachments/4793/Eric-Mietz_BCSP_What-about-the-Women.pdf
Atlantic Initiative, “The Lure of The Syrian War: The Foreign Fighters’ Bosnian Contingent”, available at https://wb-iisg.com/docs/the-lure-of-the-syrian-war-the-foreign-fighters-bosnian-contingent/ (p.26); https://wb-iisg.com/wp-content/uploads/bp-attachments/4793/Eric-Mietz_BCSP_What-about-the-Women.pdfIn addition, the deeply rooted stereotypes, open or tacit prejudices and stigma which are common in the Western Balkans (especially in the rural and underdeveloped regions) have contributed to the sidelined role of women in many aspects of society. Given that the phenomenon of terrorism easily preys on marginalized and disenfranchised individuals, the socio-economic pressures and the political grievances which are rife in the Western Balkans make the women easily susceptible to the threats of radicalization. In this regard, efforts should be undertaken to deter women from joining extremist groups and to address the factors that drive women toward extremism.
On the other hand, women can play a significant role in prevention efforts (i.e. detecting early signs of radicalization, discrediting extremist narratives, assisting or leading the process of delivering and implementing counter-radicalization programs and strategies), or notable roles in counter-terrorism (CT) activities as part of the defense and security systems of their countries. The role and participation of women in the processes of CT and countering violent extremism (CVE) are often overlooked and not completely understood in the Western Balkans. Women are perceived as less affected by the threats of terrorism and radicalization than men. Conversely, women should be considered as key and vital stakeholders and valuable assets in the process of countering terrorism and violent extremism. Mainstreaming the gender component in CT and CVE processes, and more broadly in defense and security domains, not only enhances the democratic values but also contributes to more effective CT and CVE policies and programs. As it was noted by the Institute for Security Studies “the exclusion of women from the formulation and implementation of “preventing violent extremism” (PVE) and “countering terrorism” (CT) measures undermines the success and sustainability of such efforts and threatens to undercut their democratic gains.”5unmapped: fn unmapped: label 5 https://community-democracies.org/app/uploads/2018/06/aitwr-5-1.pdf
Thus, larger efforts are needed in order to promote the gender-related issues in the region of the Western Balkans, to increase understanding about the valuable role of women in enhancing the CT and CVE efforts and to contribute to wider and more substantial responsibilities of women in these processes. In this regard, strengthening cooperation and creating partnerships between NATO and partner countries is crucial for advancements in this area.
The Region of the Western Balkans (WB) is particularly affected and is becoming the perfect setting for recruitment and spreading of propaganda. The rise of women’s participation in terrorist activities worldwide is the rising trend in the WB as well, along with the existing challenges and traditional perceptions and stereotypical images on women accompanied by the lack of socio-economic empowerment, financial stability and property ownership by women in WB. As terrorism has on numerous occasions been acknowledged as serious peril that can significantly affect the stability and prosperity of the States, it has become an important component of NATO’s cooperation efforts and struggles to counter these challenges. In this context, stability in the WB region where some countries are NATO members and others are part of Partnership for Peace (PfP) willing to become NATO members is crucial to NATO’s efforts to effectively fight terrorism threats. The gender component has been on numerous occasions acknowledged as an important aspect of CT and CVE efforts by NATO and its allies. Reorganizing and redefining the security system in modern terms in order to include the gender issue in national security policies is necessary for better and more effective CT and CVE measures and more sensitive and inclusive policies. This necessity derives from the different needs of men and women as ‘equal’ individuals guaranteed by the instruments for the protection of human rights and the instruments directed at the elimination of discrimination adopted on a national and international level. Mainstreaming the gender perspectives in the security and defense realm is also affirmed by several United Nations resolutions and within NATO’s Women, Peace and Security agenda which regularly advocate for equal participation of women at all levels ranging from peace-building to prevention of gender-based violence. Efforts to address these issues are highly relevant in the context of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR)1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security which advocates for greater involvement of women in all aspects of peace and security and UNSCR 2242 (2015) which recognizes the important role of women in counter-terrorism and countering-violent extremism and urges States “to ensure the participation and leadership of women and women’s organizations in developing strategies to counter terrorism and violent extremism which can be conducive to terrorism”. Such endeavors also comply with NATO’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda which promotes full and equal participation of women and inclusion of gender dimension within NATO’s core tasks, as well as with NATO’s efforts for more inclusive security.
In this line, Cyber security, Corporate security and Crisis management Initiative (C3I), from North Macedonia partnered with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina and organized a 6-day Advanced Training Course (ATC) event entitled “Gender Mainstreaming in Counter-terrorism Efforts in Western Balkans”. This event was supported by NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme. The ATC event aimed to raise awareness of the role of women in the security and defense sector in general and particularly about their role in tackling the radicalization and violent extremism in the Western Balkans. It stirred collaborative efforts and joint actions between NATO and partner countries on gender-related issues by stimulating discussions, expert-level deliberations and sharing lessons learned between NATO and Partner countries. It sought to enhance the role of women in the CT and CVE processes, but also to improve their position in the security and in the defense sector in the Western Balkans by synthesizing and integrating ideas and information on gender and CT/CVE, sharing good practices and expertise and facilitating the cooperation between NATO and partner countries. The ATC event was focused on several critical components: 1) to generate knowledge and increase understanding of the importance of gender-related issues and the role of gender in enhancing security; 2) to define, discuss and address the local factors conducive to women’s radicalization in WB; 3) to promote women’s leadership and participation in CT and CVE policies and programs; 4) to support NATO CT efforts through a more inclusive approach to security in the Western Balkans; 5) to instigate the development of gender-relevant policies and strategies for more effective CT and CVE measures; 6) to synthesize lessons learned on the ways and models of incorporating gender perspectives in CT and CVE efforts; and 7) to prompt cross-sectoral learning between participants and sharing experiences and best practices for more substantial inclusion of women in CT and CVE efforts, and more broadly in defense systems of their countries.
This book highlights these critical components and provides unique insights contributing to the academic debates on gender mainstreaming in P/CVE and CT efforts. It elaborates on several topics including on the legal and political framework of gender mainstreaming; the role of technology; the drivers, motivations and roles of women in the radicalization processes and the extremist groups; the nexus between counter-terrorism and gender; the gender-sensitive approaches to P/CVE and CT; gendered perspectives from the frontline; the prospects of women’s leadership roles in the community-based approaches; and the challenges on the implementation of the UNSCR 1325 in the Western Balkans.
Much appreciation and gratitude are extended to Prof. Dr. Vedada Barakovic, Associate Professor at University of Tuzla, BiH, for her immense contribution as Co-Director of the Advanced Training Course (ATC) event.
Special thanks to Dr. Goce Stevanoski and Dr. Dimitar Bogatinov, both from Military Academy “General Mihailo Apostolski”-Skopje, associated member of the University “Goce Delcev-Shtip” which assistance and hard work during the implementation process are highly appreciated.
This volume and the event could not have been realized without the support of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Program. We express our immense gratitude to its staff and their support during the whole process.
We are also very much grateful to all the speakers, experts and scholars who provided their contribution and made this effort possible.
Gender equality plays a pivotal role in combating terrorism and violent extremist in the global arena. This chapter provides a brief overview of evolution, definition and overall goals of gender mainstreaming and analysis as a tool for understanding the unique needs of men and women to achieve gender equality at the institutional level by developing policies, implementing programs and reviewing security implications. Since the 21st-century battlefield is complex, kinetic and multi-dimensional, it requires a multi-disciplinary approach to find solutions to such issues. Using technological platforms, it is possible to supplement means to understand, foresight and address such complex dynamics. A focus on the duality of information technology and its interplay with social media for recruitment, preventing the spread of misinformation and even intercepting channels of communication, plays a vital role in combating terrorism and violent extremism. From a policy standpoint, offering education and training and providing easy access to information platforms along with other similar initiatives, will assist in gender equality and in development policies, programs and strategies.
This article addresses the issue of the causes and drivers of radicalization and violent extremism (external and internal/contextual and psychological) from a general (irrespective of gender) and a gender-specific perspective (factors affecting women exclusively). It endeavors to explore and to understand the drivers that are conducive to, specific and inherent to women. The paper attempts to dissect the dichotomy of masculinity and femininity in relation to violent extremism and the gender components that determine, influence and amplify the process of radicalization.
This article explores ISIS’s recruitment of women in the physical and online space and the circumstances and factors that lead to them joining the organization. It begins with a general overview of the overall recruitment efforts of ISIS. Next, it analyzes a case study involving three young women – Khadiza Sultana, Amira Abase, and Shamima Begum, who were recruited by ISIS and, consequently, traveled to Syria from their London homes to become members of the organization. Then, it provides a discussion of the measures against ISIS’s recruitment efforts so far. The chapter concludes with recommended strategies against the recruitment of women for radical organizations. These strategies are grouped into three categories – strategies aimed at the organization itself, strategies aiming at protecting women from becoming vulnerable recruitment targets, and lastly, strategies against the intermediaries who make the recruitment possible.
This paper lays out the complexity of why and how women have supported ISIS. It identifies gendered specifics in women’s pathways towards the group and argues that prevent-, deradicalization- and rehabilitation programmes need to be gender-sensitive in order to adequately respond to these wide-ranging motivations, drivers and gender-specific catalysing factors. It explores women’s different roles in ISIS and points to challenges in law-enforcement and judicial responses to women in ISIS, arguing that a gender-sensitive, case-by-case approach is crucial in order to avoid (subconscious) gender-stereotyping of women and to ensure gendered factors including issues around agency and criminal liability as well as women’s experiences while in the Islamic State are taken into account.
The investigation, charge, prosecution, and rehabilitation of female terrorists is a controversial subject because patriarchal values widely drive the context of jihadi violence. Thousands of women made their way from over 80 countries worldwide to the Islamic State realms in Syria and Iraq, with Central Asia accounting for 20 per cent of this migration. As the forces of ISIS were retreating – and even before – Central Asian countries were keen to repatriate women and children from Syria and Iraq. In contrast to Western Europe, public opinion was supportive of these humanitarian operations. This study is informed by the debriefing of approximately fifty of these women, in a context in which they have already faced the legal repercussions for “joining” the ranks of ISIS. The women interviewed hail from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan; it is clear women left an overwhelmingly patriarchal context to find a dehumanisingly misogynistic jihadi society. Their agency as second-class ISIS “citizens” needs to be systematically explored to inform effective counterterrorism strategy, be it profiling, legislation, preemptive intervention and rehabilitation policies.
In this critical review and social innovative narrative, the author details their perspective on early intervention and prevention in relation to terrorism, radicalization, and extremism. Drawing on over 10 years of frontline experience as a teacher, police officer, and registered social worker, the author discusses the interdisciplinary approach that is crucial in preventing and resolving criminal behaviors especially as it relates to terrorism, radicalization, and extremism. While the paper focuses on this global act of violence, the discussion does not only apply to terrorism and radicalization. There are a multitude of psycho-social factors that may cause one to become vulnerable, making them susceptible to being recruited and/or engaging in criminal activity especially for women who have historically and currently been disadvantaged. The following will discuss why the current approach in crime prevention and detection follows a more reactive model. Ultimately it will consider whether the current approach, that is largely driven by law enforcement and security who are at the forefront in resolving these issues, is the most effective approach in crime resolution.
In an ever more complex policing environment, there is increasing pressure on police and community agencies to reduce and remove risks to individuals, families, and neighborhoods. Situation tables and hubs offer a method of collaborative risk mitigation that breaks down siloes, improves communication, reduces crime, and saves money. Due to the similarities in risk types, these tables may also reduce radicalization and extremism apart from traditional enforcement, which can lead to further isolation, resentment, and labelling. Additionally, opportunities are presented for gender mainstreaming and creating more fair access to services for previously disadvantaged groups.
The following article examines the gender connections between Prevention and Counter Violent Extremism policies and practices in the western Balkans. The article begins with an overview of ISIS gender ideological constructs and its impact in the western Balkans. The Western Balkans are leaders in the repatriation of their citizens from Iraq/Syria and their emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration. The article outlines a Western Balkan Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P-CVE) Typology that discusses P-CVE actions along contextual lines, and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each action, along with an example. Specifically, the P-CVE actions examined in this article are penal code amendments, enforcement, incarceration, discourse, de-radicalization programs and finally rehabilitation/integration. The article concludes with a short discourse on the intersection of etiology and criminality as it relates to ISIS. Finally, strategic gender P-CVE recommendations are offered to build upon western Balkan’s repatriation practices.
As the variegation of soft law increases, so we witness a growing number of soft law instruments – resolutions, guidelines, recommendations and the like – being adopted and implemented. The idea behind soft law is to assist governance through flexible problem solving, considering that soft law instruments produce legal and practical effects that are beyond judicial control. These pages focus on the effects of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR 1325) that is considered a UN soft law instrument given that it was not adopted under the Security Council’s Chapter VII mandate and the Security Council has no enforcement power thereover.
In a narrower sense, this paper examines the implementation of Resolution 1325 in the EU and select Western Balkan countries. Specifically, the paper offers a contrasting of the particular National Action Plans for its implementation in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EU’s Strategic Approach to the EU implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security. The comparison of objectives, fundamental terms and civil society involvement will serve as a platform for drawing conclusions on the relevance and the effects of Resolution 1325 in the said countries and the EU.
This article explores the strategic and human rights perspectives on gender mainstreaming in preventing/countering violent extremist efforts (P/CVE) in the Western Balkans (WB). It begins with elaborating the strategic relevance of gender mainstreaming in the contested and fast-changing security environment where the threat from modern-day extremists that practice terrorism is a reality. Although NATO has already acknowledged the importance of gender mainstreaming the human rights perspectives of gender mainstreaming in general and in the P/CVE context have largely been neglected. The article analyzes human rights perspectives to gender mainstreaming in P/CVE from three aspects and provides a rationale for its relevance. First, the general human rights perspective to gender mainstreaming in P/CVE. Second, from a perspective of protecting human rights and providing fair treatment to those who commit violent extremist activities. Finally, from the perspective of human rights violation by committing or supporting violent extremist activities/agenda.