— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) July 16, 2014
As ISIS commands all women in its domains to veil their faces or face unspecified punishment, Kathy Gilsinan explores the role
Iraqi Syrian women themselves are playing in enforcing the group’s fanatical dictates:
The al-Khansaa Brigade is ISIS’s all-female moral police, established in Raqqa soon after ISIS took over the city a few months ago. “We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law,” Abu Ahmad, an ISIS official in Raqqa, told Syria Deeply’s Ahmad al-Bahri. Ahmad emphasized that the brigade has its own facilities to avoid mingling among men and women. “Jihad,” he told al-Bahri, “is not a man-only duty. Women must do their part as well.”
The institution of female enforcers for female morality makes a certain kind of sense if you take the prohibition against sexes mingling to its logical extreme. Still, ISIS in Raqqa may be the only jihadi group employing this kind of logic. In other jihadi groups, “it is men who enforce modesty in public,” explains Thomas Hegghammer, an expert on Islamist militancy affiliated with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, via email. Nor has the practice spread elsewhere in the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate. The al-Khansaa Brigade may be what Hegghammer calls a “short-lived stunt in a single city.”
Indeed, regional news sources suggest the brigade was designed to solve a specific problem: male anti-ISIS fighters disguising themselves in all-concealing feminine garb to pass through checkpoints. With male ISIS members reluctant to inspect under garments to verify the womanhood of the wearers, they got some women to do it.