Bombshell: Women and Terrorism

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University of Pennsylvania Press, Aug 13, 2012 - Political Science - 320 pages
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Between 1985 and 2008, female suicide bombers committed more than 230 attacks—about a quarter of all such acts. Women have become the ideal stealth weapon for terrorist groups. They are less likely to be suspected or searched and as a result have been used to strike at the heart of coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This alarming tactic has been highly effective, garnering extra media attention and helping to recruit more numbers to the terrorists' cause. Yet, as Mia Bloom explains in Bombshell: Women and Terrorism, female involvement in terrorism is not confined to suicide bombing and not limited to the Middle East.

From Northern Ireland to Sri Lanka, women have been engaged in all manner of terrorist activities, from generating propaganda to blowing up targets. What drives women to participate in terrorist activities? Bloom—a scholar of both international studies and women's studies—blends scrupulous research with psychological insight to unearth affecting stories from women who were formerly terrorists. She moves beyond gender stereotypes to examine the conditions that really influence female violence, arguing that while women terrorists can be just as bloodthirsty as their male counterparts, their motivations tend to be more intricate and multilayered. Through compelling case studies she demonstrates that though some of these women volunteer as martyrs, many more have been coerced by physical threats or other means of social control.

As evidenced by the March 2011 release of Al Qaeda's magazine Al Shamikha, dubbed the jihadi Cosmo, it is clear that women are the future of even the most conservative terrorist organizations. Bombshell is a groundbreaking book that reveals the inner workings of a shocking, unfamiliar world.


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Q. How did you like this book? A. This is an astounding book. Mia has a good knowledge of her subject and I learned a lot. I was not too familiar with some of the history of the movements Mia discusses. She gives the full back story, but succinctly, to each terrorist group she covers. It is too bad that women are being caught up into suicide bombing and other terrorist activities, but as Mia states at the end of the book, in many ways, certain women find their only place in these terror movements. Q. What is causing women to turn to terrorism? A. Mia says redemption, revenge, remorse, and sometimes rape, and a few other things. She thinks that forming groups like the Daughters of Iraq, to combat the glamor of terrorism, may help. I think, since many of these conflicts have come about through occupation of territory, that things may get worse. Q. Why is that? A. Because the population of the world continues to grow and everyone wants their own space and their own resources. This is human nature. Women see the need for space and resources for their group just as much as men. Children are the only ones who do not understand it, and our only hope is that children will one day find another solution. Q. Such as? A. I do not know, but there has to be something where everyone can get a fair share of the pie. Q. So you recommend this book for the general reader? A. Yes. Everyone can learn a lot from this book. Americans especially will see that the world is made up of much more than McDonald hamburgers and the National Football League. 


Moscow March 2010
1 A Brief History of Terror and the Logic of Oppression
2 The Black Widow Bombers
3 The Pregnant Bomber
4 The Scout
5 The Future Bombers
6 The Crucial Links
7 The Recruiters and Propagandists
8 The Fours Rs plus One
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About the author (2012)

Mia Bloom is Professor of Security Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. She is also author of Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror and editor of Living Together After Ethnic Killing: Exploring the Chaim Kaufman Argument (with Roy Licklider).

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