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Bangladeshi women being used as new means for executing Islamic militant attacks

The archetype of a mother, women, now helping to kill their own children

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Four women arrested for assisting in militant activities (Benar news)
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  • There are reports that women assisting men in carrying out Islamic militant attacks in Bangladesh. 
  • It is said by those men that they use women because they clear the screenings process easily .
  • Women are not seen as carriers of violence and terrorism.
  • Four women arrested for playing along.

According to news published by an Indonesian news agency BenarNews on July 25, 2016, women are being recruited to facilitate or carry out militant attacks in Bangladesh. The revelations came to light following the arrests of four female suspects a couple of days earlier.

“The JMB members, now, have radicalized their wives. They have been aiding their husbands’ militant activities,” Md Abu Yousuf, an additional superintendent of police in Sirajganj district told BenarNews, referring to the banned group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen.

“On Saturday, we arrested four women, all spouses of fugitive JMB members, from Sirajganj. This is a new trend,” he added.

The suspects, identified as Nadira Tabassum, 30, Habiba Aktar, 18, Rumana Aktar, 21, and Runa Begum, 19, were now in jail, he said.

“We have recovered six Molotov cocktails, different types of explosive and jihadi books from their possession. According to their statements to us, they were planning some attacks,” Yousuf said.

Wome being used as carriers of Islamic Militant attacks Images source:Wikimedia Commons
Wome being used as carriers of Islamic Militant attacks
Images source:Wikimedia Commons

Another local police official, Waheduzzaman, told reporters that the four were planning to carry out attacks in Uttarpara in Sirajganj district, located some 130 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of Dhaka.

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A new phenomenon

The arrests were unusual, especially the arrest of four female suspects at once, police and security experts said.

“The use of women in militant attacks is not often seen in Bangladesh. This is a new phenomenon here. During 2004 to 2006 when the JMB activities were highest, we did not see women have roles in attacks,” Sakhawat Hossain, a security analyst, told BenarNews.

He said women clear security screenings more easily because they are not considered to pose any threat.

“So, the JMB may have adopted the strategy to get weapons to a target site. Even the women can easily go to the spot to gather information about the attack and communicate with the attackers,” Hossain said.

In some cases, militants marry siblings, allowing them to maintain a close group, he added.

“We have also seen that one of Avijit Roy’s killers, Sharif, married the sister of another militant leader. After the marriage, the women get radicalized and help their spouses in militant activities,” Hossain said, suggesting that the law enforcers should rethink their security approach to thwart this tactic.

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Roy, a Bangladeshi-American engineer, science writer and blogger, was hacked to death by suspected extremists in Dhaka in February 2015.

Abdur Rahman, a resident of Sirajganj, said that local people were shocked to learn the four women had been arrested on suspicion of militant activities.

“This is a matter of great pain that the four women had three children and the children are in jail with them,” he told BenarNews.

‘Inter-related’

Meanwhile, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Monday said police had identified the masterminds of the attacks on a café in the Gulshan 2 neighborhood of Dhaka on July 1 and at Eid prayers in Kishoreganj district on July 7. The attacks left 29 and four dead, respectively.

“All attacks are inter-related. …We have come to know everything about all the murders; we have identified who killed them, how and why,” Khan said, without offering more information.

Inspector General of Police A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque on Monday said law enforcers had also identified the sources of the weapons used in the two attacks. He did not give more details, saying such a disclosure could negatively impact the investigation.

The Middle East-based extremist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the café attack, but Bangladeshi authorities say that JMB was behind that attack as well as the attack a week later on the country’s largest Eid prayer gathering. (Benar news)

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The Attention Shifts To The U.S. As It Strikes Down FGM Law

Looking beyond the Michigan case, Jones said the key to stopping FGM isn’t just legislation but also education.

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FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016.Image source: VOA

When a U.S. district judge last month ruled a federal ban on female genital mutilation unconstitutional, he undercut the federal government and alarmed anti-FGM activists, who hope to eradicate the practice.

The World Health Organization calls FGM, also known as female circumcision, a human rights violation of women and girls, with no health benefits.

Some 200 million women and girls around the world, mainly in Africa, have experienced FGM, the WHO says.

In his opinion, Judge Bernard Friedman called FGM “despicable,” but also “a local criminal activity” that must be addressed at the state level. In enacting a federal law, he said, Congress overstepped.

Now, local lawmakers, advocates and newspapers are calling for state bans that equal or surpass the scope of the federal law that was struck down.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, judge
A badge reads “The power of labor against FGM” is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2018. (VOA)

‘Never again’

The case Friedman ruled on centers around Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency room physician accused of performing FGM on at least 100 girls in Michigan for more than a decade.

Prosecutors have focused their case on nine girls, aged 7 to 12, from three states. The girls allegedly were subjected to FGM with the aid of Nagarwala and seven others, including the girls’ mothers.

Defense attorneys say the procedure amounted to only a “nick” on the girls performed as part of a religious ritual — not FGM. But they also argued in July that the federal law banning FGM is unconstitutional.

State Senator Rick Jones, who represents Michigan’s 24th district, told VOA by phone that he was shocked to learn about Nagarwala’s case and strongly disagrees with Friedman’s ruling.

Last year, Jones became the spokesperson for a package of bills outlawing FGM statewide. The legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Female Circumcision, FGM
The barbaric practice of genitalia mutilation has been banned in developed nations. Wikimedia

Now, Michigan has some of the toughest FGM laws in the country.

Health-care providers convicted of performing FGM face up to 15 years in prison, along with the permanent loss of their medical licenses. Parents who take their daughters to doctors to be cut can lose custody.

The 1996 federal law, meanwhile, stipulated up to five years in prison and fines for medical providers who perform FGM.

“We wanted to send a strong message around the world: Never again bring your girls to Michigan for this horrible procedure,” Jones said.

Across the U.S., 27 states have passed laws banning FGM, many of which have been written in recent years and include penalties that go beyond the federal law, which also criminalizes so-called “vacation cutting,” the practice of taking girls out of the United States to have FGM performed overseas.

News organizations are among those pushing for an expansion of state laws. Last month, the Seattle Times editorial board called for a ban in Washington, one of 23 states yet to outlaw FGM.

FGM
A doctor checks her phone as she poses for a photograph in Mumbai, India, June 8, 2016. The 50-year-old woman defends what is widely considered female genital mutilation within her small, prosperous Dawoodi Bohra community in India. VOA

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times editorial board said all 50 states should ban the “barbaric” practice, in light of Friedman’s ruling.

Religious ritual?

The health-care providers and families involved in the Michigan case belong to Dawoodi Bohra, a Shi’ite Muslim sect based in India with about 2 million followers worldwide.

According to a study published earlier this year, FGM, called khafd in Dawoodi Bohra communities, is widespread in the sect and involves cutting the clitoral hood or part of the clitoris, without an anesthetic, when girls turn seven.

The study, commissioned by WeSpeakOut, an advocacy group focused on eradicating khafd, also found that three-quarters of Dawoodi Bohra women have experienced FGM.

The severity and nature of FGM can vary.

Health-care providers have identified four types of FGM. Khafd involves Type 1 FGM. Other types involve removing all of the external genitalia and narrowing the vaginal opening.

Jones rejects the idea that there’s a religious basis for the procedure, however it’s performed.

FGM
FILE – A counselor holds up cards used to educate women about female genital mutilation (FGM). VOA

“Across the world, this has been practiced by Christians, pagans, Muslims, even a small Jewish sect in Ethiopia,” he said.

“This is not about a religion,” he added. “This is about men attempting to control women’s behavior by this horrible procedure.”

The WHO identifies both short-term and permanent harms associated with the practice. Immediate concerns include severe pain, infections and, in some cases, death. Long term, women and girls subjected to FGM face a range of physiological and psychological complications that can affect menstruation, childbirth and sexual health.

The United States has been unequivocal in condemning the practice, saying “the U.S. government considers FGM/C to be a serious human rights abuse, and a form of gender-based violence and child abuse” on a fact sheet posted to the Citizenship & Immigration Services website.

Education and legislation

Friedman’s November decision is the latest in a series of setbacks for prosecutors.

Nagarwala spent seven months in 2017 in jail before 16 friends posted a $4.5 million unsecured bond, against the pleas of prosecutors, who argued Nagarwala could silence potential witnesses or even flee the country if released.

FGM
KAMELI, KENYA – AUGUST 12: A Masaai villager displays the traditional blade used to circumcise young girls August 12, 2007 in Kameli, Kenya. Maasai are a pastoral group mostly clustered in the Rift Valley. They practice circumcision on both boys and girls during puberty years as a rite of passage to adulthood. VOA

And in January, the judge dismissed charges that Nagarwala and a second doctor, Fakhruddin Attar, transported minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, an offense that carries a lifetime sentence.

Nagarwala still faces conspiracy and obstruction charges that could result in decades in prison.

The trial is now set to begin next April, the Detroit Free Press reported last month. However, the prosecution could appeal last month’s decision, drawing the case out further.

Also Read: Somalia Calls To Outlaw Female Genital Mutilation

Looking beyond the Michigan case, Jones said the key to stopping FGM isn’t just legislation but also education.

“What we have to do is continue to fight this worldwide. This is a global problem,” Jones said.

“It is a violation of human rights,” he said. “And I’m going to continue speaking out worldwide against this horrible, horrible practice that must end.” (VOA)