Women joining illicit fighting groups is not a new topic. However, since the emergence of the Islamic State and other jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, various individuals, including women, went to the combat zones and joined these groups in unprecedented numbers. While the number of men certainly exceeds the number of women, the pattern of radicalization and recruitment of women to the conflict zones remains a puzzle, given the diversity of cases and the countries the women come from. This article focuses on the cases of women from Central Asia who went to the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq since 2011. Included are examples of not only women who voluntarily chose to go to these conflict zones but also the much larger group of women who were taken, involuntarily, to the combat zones by their husbands. Many of these women have been encouraged or coerced by their husbands to go to these conflict zones. Family dynamics and the subservient role of wives in Central Asia may be influential, the decision to travel to conflict zones is to a greater extent about dependency and to a lesser extent about agency. In general, both findings demonstrate the complexity of the recruitment and mobilization processes.
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