The Women of ISIS

Understanding and Combating Female Extremism

Nimmi Gowrinathan
Iraqi Islamist women hold a counter protest during a pro-women's rights rally in Baghdad, August 2005.
Iraqi Islamist women hold a counter protest during a pro-women's rights rally in Baghdad, August 2005. (Courtesy Reuters)
Reports that women have formed their own brigade within the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have confounded experts -- and worried them. For many, the idea of women as violent extremists seems paradoxical. Why should women want to join a political struggle that so blatantly oppresses them?
News & Events

What's Inside the New Issue

American political dysfunction; Russia and Ukraine; Syria; and more.
Snapshot

Africa's City on a Hill

Seth Kaplan
Life in Nigeria's largest city is changing for the better, offering a potential lesson for struggling states looking to stage a turnaround: mayors and city councils are more likely to embrace positive change than legislatures and presidents -- and far more quickly and effectively.
Comment

Dysfunction Junction

Gideon Rose and Jonathan Tepperman
American politics today are a mess, and since the distraction and paralysis of the world’s hegemon has such obvious global significance, we decided to turn our focus inward, exploring the sources and contours of the American malaise.
Snapshot
Kevin Russell

Haider al-Abadi, selected to be Iraq’s new prime minister, is already being hailed as a potential savior for his country. But the system of power sharing that resulted in his appointment is part of the reason that Iraq’s politics are so turbulent in the first place.

People stand in heavy rain near Shanghai's financial district, August 18, 2014.
Snapshot
Ely Ratner and Elizabeth Rosenberg

The United States will have to face the reality that further Russian isolation might be more costly than it is worth. In particular, further U.S.-led sanctions will start to harm U.S. allies and partners in Asia and, therefore, American interests.

The bottom of the Rio Negro, a major tributary to the Amazon river, in the city of Manaus, October 26, 2010.
Postscript
Carter Roberts

Earth Overshoot Day is the date on which humanity’s demand for natural resources exceeds the earth’s ability to renew them in a year. Last year, we hit that mark on August 20. This year, it comes one day earlier. For the remainder of 2014, in other words, we will be living beyond our planet’s means.

A female police cadet in Karachi, December 16, 2013.
Letter From
Aeyliya Husain

Wardah Nur never imagined that she would become a soldier. And, until ten years ago, she couldn’t have. Nur belongs to a small, elite group -- the 2013 “lady cadets,” as they are called -- the latest batch of women to train at the Pakistan Military Academy since it began accepting them in 2006 during General Pervez Musharraf’s presidency.

A demonstrator wears a helmet with a sticker that reads "Pemex is not for sale."
Snapshot
Pamela K. Starr and Michael C. Camuñez

It is not an exaggeration to call Mexico’s recent energy reform revolutionary. It will break the monopoly of Pemex, the state-owned petroleum company, and allow foreign private investment in almost every corner of the Mexican energy market. Such a reform promises to revive the Mexican oil industry.

Displaced people from the Yezidi minority group in northern Iraq, August 13, 2014.
Snapshot
Barak Mendelsohn

It is hard to believe ISIS did not understand that threatening the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan would mean directly challenging the U.S. alliance with the Kurds and potentially provoking it to fight. Indeed, it is likely that ISIS viewed the possibility as a win-win.

Discussion