Scholars have struggled for quite literally decades to unpack the development and psychology of suicide terrorism. The indoctrination process involves not just propaganda but institutions which channel and ground particular kinds of ideological moves. A series of recent studies by Israeli Lt. Col. Anat Berko has sought to analyze, more precisely, how potential bombers are manipulated into overcoming basic instincts for self-preservation.
Recently speaking before a crowd at Binghamton University in upstate New York, Berko, who has spent 20 years studying terrorists, provided a profile of how women and children are specifically targeted:
The focus of her talk was the role of women and adolescents in Islamic terror attacks and the mental abuse that leads many of these people to try and take their own lives. “Today we see a wave of female and children bombers. There have been over 50 female suicide bombers in just Iraq,” she said.
She described how many female terrorists had been sexually assaulted as young women or children. “Many times these girls are sexually abused,” she said. “And if they commit a ‘mistake’ or are involved with a man they are ruined. But for the man it is always okay.”
Palestinian suicide bomber Reem al-Reyashi, who in 2004 killed herself and four Israelis, has been cited as an example of the dynamic described by Berko. Reyashi, a mother of two, was coerced into killing herself after she was caught having an affair. Her husband, a Hamas operative, pushed her to carry out a suicide mission to ‘restore her family’s honor’. Hamas has subsequently broadcast celebratory videos of her terror attack, with one program hosted by her son and daughter.