Though the majority of suicide bombers
have been male, female suicide bombers
have carried out a number of attacks since 1985.
The first known suicide attack by a woman was carried out in Lebanon on April 9, 1985. Sana'a Mehaidli, a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), detonated an explosive-laden vehicle, which killed two Israeli soldiers and injured two more. Since then, female suicide bombers have been employed in several conflicts, by a variety of organizations, against both military and civilian targets:
- Women of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or Tamil Tigers, have perpetrated 30–40% of the organization's suicide bombings, which number more than 200.
- The Chechen shahidkas have attacked Russian troops in Chechnya and Russian civilians elsewhere, e.g. in the Moscow theater hostage crisis.
- During the Lebanese Civil War, female SSNP members bombed Israeli troops, militias such as the South Lebanon Army, and Lebanese civilians.
- In the Al-Aqsa Intifada, women of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas have bombed Israeli civilians and soldiers.
- Members of the Iraqi insurgency have set off suicide bombs.
- Women of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have carried out suicide bombings primarily against Turkish Armed Forces, in some cases strapping explosives to their abdomen in order to simulate pregnancy.
Some argue that the increasing prevalence of female suicide bombers in the Intifada is a sign of the rising status of women in Arab culture. Others argue that suicide bombers are low-level pawns and thus the use of women cannot be a sign of rising status. Still others point out that women are simply joining the men in fighting, a choice that is seen as being open to them in Islamic teaching.
Some militant organizations have used women to carry out suicide bombings because they draw less suspicion than men and go through less rigorous security checks. For example: while a man can be checked to see if he's carrying an explosive belt by simply lifting his shirt, ordering a woman is much less acceptable, particularly in the Islamic world. Israeli security procedures practice is that a suspected woman is to be checked by a female soldier in a screened off area.
On the same day Darine Abu Aisha committed a suicide bombing, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the religious leader of Islamist militant group Hamas, issued a fatwa, or religious rule, that gave permission to women to participate in suicide attacks as well as listing the rewards in "Paradise" that these female martyrs would receive upon their deaths. He also promised Hamas will send many female suicide bombers in order to strike Israelis.
Reactions to this in the Islamic world were mixed. While many hailed the female suicide bomber and urged full involvement of all in Jihad, some criticized the cruelty of tearing mothers from their children and sending them to explode themselves.
Using women for suicide bombings has an added danger to those charged with preventing bombings. Women are less likely to be searched for suicide vests as a man either as a result of indecency, fear of accusations of sexual harassment or fear of breaking Islamic laws that require women to remain traditionally clothed in public.
- Real Mothers Don't Kill
- A Palestinian Mother's Dream for Her Son?
- Mothers and Children
- Women Armed for Terror - list of female suicide-bombers.
- Messengers of Death: Female Suicide Bombers (February 12, 2003) and An Update (March 7, 2004) by Clara Beyler at ICT
- Mia Bloom, "Mother. Daughter. Sister. Bomber." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 2005.
- Cult of the Suicide Bomber II - Women - a television history by ex-CIA agent Robert Baer
- Female suicide bombers 'eagerly await' IDF soldiers (VIDEO) Islamic Jihad warns Israel of 'surprises' should IDF invade Gaza Strip; dozens of female suicide bombers eager to blow themselves up, take soldiers with them
- Study: Female suicide bombers seek atonement Main motivation for women to carry out suicide attacks is to repent for past sins, new study reveals; women bombers are beneficial to terror groups - they receive greater media coverage, cause more deaths
- Double-female suicide bombers, one 8 months pregnant
- Video of suicide attack in Colombo, targeting Minister Douglas Devananda
- Discussion including leading experts (Horowitz, Bloom, O'Rourke, Schweitzer, Ali)
- Rosemarie Skaine, Female Suicide Bombers. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006.
- Barbara Victor, Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers. Rodale, 2003.
- Zedalis, Debra, Female Suicide Bombers, U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute (Free Download)
- Yoram Schweitzer (Ed.): Female Suicide Bombers: Dying for Equality?, The Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies (JCSS), Tel Aviv University, August 2006
- Jan Goodwin, When the Suicide Bomber is a Woman 2007.