ASK THE AVERAGE political analyst or anti-terrorism expert to sketch a profile of a suicide bomber and the description would follow a familiar pattern.
It may go like this: the perpetrator who is prepared to sacrifice his body and take the lives of scores or hundreds of innocent victims in acts of violence is usually a bearded man pursuing an Islamic, Christian or other religious and political cause.
For instance, the figure who was trained to kill and cause mayhem fully expects to die as a martyr in pursuit of a quest for land or to crush a government or movement of “infidels.” Should he die, his promised reward would be permanent residence in a place of milk, honey and countless virgins.
Recent events in Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia appear to support that incomplete picture of .
What’s missing is the ever-increasing presence of women, the givers and nourishers of humanity who are not routinely associated with global terror.
Now, two prominent scholars, Dr Andy Knight, a Barbadian and a political science professor at Canada’s University of Alberta and Dr Tanya Narozhna, a multilingual Ukranian and associate professor of global politics at the University of Winnipeg, have used the results of extensive original research to fill the void.
They are the authors of Female Suicide Bombings, a 266-page book published by the University of Toronto Press. Knight, until recently the Director of the University of the West Indies Institute of International Relations in Trinidad and Tobago and Narozhna have provided the worldwide academic community and those government decision-makers who formulate policy to fight national and global terror with an illuminating scholarly work and a “critical gender approach” that throws much light on this deadly and unrelenting phenomenon.
“The authors should be commended for the excellent examination of this issue which until now has escaped international scrutiny,” said Dr Cecil Foster, a Barbadian political science professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
“The themes discussed in Female Suicide Bombings are timely, little known, and will generate interest among scholars,” said Vesselin Popovski, Senior Programme Officer at the United Nations University.
Knight, who was born in St James but lived at different times in St Peter, Christ Church and St Michael during his early years before emigrating to Canada in the 1970s, explained the book was a product of six to seven years of solid research and analysis of an issue that up until now was virtually ignored. The book which can be found in university libraries across North America and Europe, delves into what “looks to us as the spread of an epidemic” of women as suicide bombers.
“Yes, it remains a fact that the vast majority of suicide bombings are carried out by men. But women are increasingly using their bodies in this form of deadly political violence,” added Knight.
Even before the turn of the 21st century, women were willing participants in deadly suicide bombings. They have since escalated, so much so that the authors have documented more than 150 cases of the deadly terror tactic involving women, taking thousands of lives. Many of the details of the terror are in the book which traces the history of modern female suicide acts of violence; the gender and power of it; explores the workings of the organizations behind it, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Middle East, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Boko Haram in Africa and other terrorist groups in Turkey and the rest of Europe.
“There has been a switch in tactics of these organisations to include women,” said Knight.
Clearly, the book would be useful for those in Barbados and its neighbours who are interested in gender studies and security.
Interestingly, Knight has a pertinent warning for the Caribbean: don’t believe suicide bombings can’t happen in the region.
After all, scores of Trinidadians are now fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq and may soon return home to undertake their own jihads. And women could be among them.
Knight worries that as ISIS suffers military reversals many of the Trinidadians may return home and continue the fighting.
“The Caribbean (Barbados included) is not ready with its own security systems and intelligence” to combat such acts of terror, he warned.
Tony Best is the NATION’s North American Correspondent. Email: Bestra@aol.com.