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.
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