The previous paper discussed whether women taking front-line roles in terrorist organisations is a form of progression against gender-based violence, or a form of regression as it perpetuates the oppression of women by terrorist groups. I hypothesised that terrorist groups capitalise on gender inequalities, making women canvas’ for the articulation of their personal political or religious agendas. I additionally concluded that most women are coerced into participating in terrorist organisations due to political or economic reasons and propaganda emanated by terrorist groups themselves. Thus, using women as suicide bombers and giving them more participatory roles, is in actuality, a form of regression.
This paper will either prove or disprove the above-mentioned hypothesis by focusing on gender dynamics within terrorist organisations who affect Palestine, specifically having a focal point on women suicide bombers and their experiences, through discourse analysis.
Discourse theory focuses on the dynamics of power through the use of signifiers and the signified. It can be understood that words create meanings and representations in the political world, which emanate specific ideologies (Hasso ,2005).
The political and social context of Palestinian women suicide bombers
Gender-based violence can subvert prevailing societal truths and discourses whilst constructing renewed ones. This can be applied to suicide bombers who voluntarily sacrifice their life in order to seek political justice, for whatever reason. Frances (2005, p.1), states how ‘crucial to the political and discursive significance of the suicide bombers/martyrs was that these were the bodies and blood of women, dramatically made relevant in ways that challenged the sexual and feminized forms usually associated with menstruation, childbirth, heteronormativity, maternal sacrifice, and the violated or raped woman (Awadat, 2002).’ As such, by normalising women suicide bombers as martyrs within political discourse, the line between regression and progression against gender-based violence becomes complicatedly blurred. Additionally, such women challenge what it means to be a female in their respective communities. They threaten the ‘normative gender-sexual grid,’ through aggression and violence (Bloom, 2007).
Palestinian women militants remarkably object the apartheidic occupation by the Israeli military of their land and oppression of their population, specifically the blockades imposed onto the Gaza strip by Israeli forces (Awadat, 2002). Furthermore, they challenge the gender-based stereotypes of the Israeli peoples, specifically that of the Palestinian male as a security threat and not females as threats to their imposed racial hierarchy (Bloom, 2007). In addition to this, Palestinian women militants contributed to defense alongside men, therefore they destabilise the stereotype of men protecting the women and women being the domestic nurturers or ‘home bodies’ of society (Bloom, 2007).
A study conducted by Naaman, in 2007, found that suicide attacks were an operational tactic utilised by Palestinians to convey the political messages of nationalism and belonging (Naaman, 2007). This tactic has been in place since 1993 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is presumable that such acts of terror have been conducted against the apartheidic control of Israel on Palestinian Occupied Territory, a growing hatred towards Israel have additionally increased the numbers of attacks employed (Awadat, 2002). After the second intifada, in 2002, there has been an increase in the participation of women as suicide bombers. Literature such as; Arafat’s plead: ‘You are the hope of Palestine. You will liberate your husbands, fathers, and sons from oppression. You will sacrifice the way you, women, have always sacrificed for your family’ (Naaman, 2007: 20), has been used as propaganda to sway women into believing that their bodies are only tools for sacrifice for their husbands, sons and other male relatives. This has often been referred to as ‘martyrdom operations’. The discourse that followed the suicide bombings conducted by women, in the Arabic-speaking world, concealed their truths to some extent and instead constructed a different societal truth that was heavily saturated with gendered signifiers which focalised on the ideologies and locations of the narrators instead (Bloom, 2007). Through discourse such as this, suicide is associated with heroism, pride and martyrdom.