Female suicide bombers tend to be motivated by revenge after having lost a loved one, usually a husband, according to a new study on female violence.
Dr. Helen Gavin, a psychology lecturer from the University of Huddersfield and co-author of a new book on female aggression, told an audience at the Defence Science and Technology Lab (DSTSL) she had been trying to identify “distinct” psychological traits in failed female suicide bombers.
While male bombers tend to be motivated to “avenge” for more ideological or religious reasons, women often sought “revenge” for more directly emotional reasons, she said.
Although “women are just as susceptible to ideological motivation” they tend to “need ‘revenge’ because they have lost a loved one, often a husband.”
Her conclusions bring into relief the ongoing debate over the impact of foreign policy on local populations in place like Iraq.
In 2011, after nearly a decade of fighting, the New York Times was told by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning that 9 percent of the country’s women – 900,000 – were widows. In June that year the Ministry of Women said the actual figure was nearer 1 million.
In 2008, the same newspaper reported that US success in killing Al-Qaeda fighters had often led to their female relatives being radicalized.
The use of women as suicide bombers is also a tactic informed by culture. Women are less likely to be searched at military checkpoints out of respect for their modesty.
In April this year, a study suggested up to 90 percent of young Iraqis consider the US an enemy. Similarly high figures were evident in the Palestinian territories.
“For years, many have argued that Muslims and Arabs, like other humans, don’t appreciate being bombed or occupied,” Haroon Moghul, an academic at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, told the Intercept at the time.
“Finally, we have a study to confirm this suspicion,” he added.