An estimated 4000 westerners have travelled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. More than 550 of them are women and girls who have travelled across the globe to become the wives of ISIS soldiers. While the men become fighters and seek out battlefields in areas like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the women support the groups' state building efforts adopting the role of wives, mothers, recruiters and sometimes online cheerleaders of violence.
Most of the girls that travel to join the Islamic State are quite young, usually in their teenage years or 20s. Their profiles differ in terms of socio-economic background, ethnicity and nationality, but they are usually more educated and studious than their male counterparts.
Security officials are starting to believe they pose a greater threat to the West than the men. The girls are less likely to be killed in combat and more likely to lose a spouse, therefore they have a higher chance of returning home, indoctrinated and embittered.
Images from recordings at Gatwick Airport show, from left, Khadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase passing through security before flying to Turkey | Source: New York Times
A number of girls from western nations have left their families behind only to become wives of jihadists and bear their children. The most recent case is of three teenage girls from London.
Khadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum were best friends and did every thing together, including running away from their home in Bethnal Green, London, to join the ISIS in Syria.
The girls were said to be exceptionally bright students who always performed well in school. "They were the girls you wanted to be like" said a 14-year-old girl from the grade below theirs (as quoted by New York Times).
They lived in an area in London that was largely populated by Muslims and of the particularly conservative class. Even the school they went had a majority Muslim population.
Women in ISIS | Source: Reuters