Definitions

Child Suicide Bomber

Female suicide bomber

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:

Palestinian bombers

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.

Tactical gain

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.

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