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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 Tale Of Dying Dreams In The Name Of Tradition

Tony Mwebia of the Men End FGM campaign said visits to primary schools show that even as early as age 10, there are far fewer girls than boys.

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FGm
Maasai girls and a man watch a video on a mobile phone prior to the start of a social event advocating against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

It was during her first year of high school in rural western Kenya that Mary Kuket says she was “sacrificed to tradition” and her dreams of becoming a doctor shattered forever.

With no explanation, the 15-year-old was given away to another family, who forced her to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), then married her off to their middle-aged son.

“I kept asking my parents why I was being taken and begged them not to send me away, but my father pushed me away, saying that soon I would understand,” Kuket, now 46, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Baringo county. “They never told me I was going to be cut. They never told me I was going to be married to a 45-year-old man. They never told me that I would not go back to school.”

From the fear of being ostracized or killed to the prestige associated with entering womanhood, girls in Kenya are under a barrage of societal pressures to undergo FGM, often with a devastating impact on their education, say campaigners.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM
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,(VOA)

A study by the charity ActionAid Kenya published Monday said despite the fact that FGM is illegal in the east African nation, deep-rooted myths supporting the ancient ritual persist.

Violence ‘normalized’

The survey, based on interviews with almost 400 girls and women in eight Kenyan counties, found that FGM affected not only their health but also their schooling.

“Despite efforts to curb FGM, this type of violence against women and girls is so normalized in some communities. Girls are socialized into believing they must undergo the procedure,” said Agnes Kola, women’s rights coordinator for ActionAid Kenya. “But it is stifling their ability to participate in society, as once they undergo FGM, their schooling is impacted and many never complete their education and progress in life.”

Girls missed school to recover after the procedure and suffered medical complications and trauma that affected their class attendance and performance, the report said.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM
Students arrive at the start of a social event advocating against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

Seen as a rite of passage in many communities, FGM also acted as a trigger for girls as young as 11 to become sexually active and married off as they were perceived as women — often ending with child pregnancy.

As a result, fewer girls than boys in Kenya’s FGM-prevalent counties were finishing their primary education, and even fewer were transitioning to high school, the study said.

While national figures show secondary enrollment of boys and girls in year one to be almost equal, in some FGM-prevalent counties, enrollment of girls in the same group is less than half that of boys, according to government data.

‘Ticket for marriage’

An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, which usually involves the partial or total removal of the genitalia, the United Nations says.

FGM
Girls sit in the yard at Kalas Girls Primary School, Amudat District, Karamoja, Uganda, Jan. 31, 2018. They each escaped home after their families tried to force them to undergo FGM or to enter into marriage. VOA

Despite being internationally condemned, it is practiced in at least 27 African countries and parts of Asia and the Middle East, and is usually carried out by traditional cutters, often with unsterilized blades or knives.

In some cases, girls can bleed to death or die from infections. FGM can also cause lifelong painful conditions such as fistula as well as fatal childbirth complications.

Kenya outlawed the practice in 2011, but it continues as communities believe it is necessary for social acceptance and increasing their daughters’ marriage prospects.

One in five females aged 15 to 49 in Kenya has undergone FGM, according to U.N. data.

The study in eight counties found fear of being rejected for marriage, ostracized by the community or even killed was pushing girls to undergo FGM.

In the eastern county of Garissa, Muslim communities were cited as saying anyone who was not circumcised was not permitted to worship and could easily be killed.

FGM
Amran Mahamood used to circumcise young girls in Hargeysa, Somalia, but stopped after a religious leader convinced her the rite was not required by Islamic law. VOA

“Religiously, we are told that circumcision makes girls to be clean before God, and it is only after undergoing this practice that the girls can be allowed to read the Quran or to worship,” said a woman from Garissa, cited in the report.

Elsewhere, girls and women said they were expected to undergo FGM to comply with cultural expectations of marriage.

“FGM is considered as the community-given ticket for marriage, thus it results in automatic suitors or bidders, which is absolutely the parent’s choice,” said the report. “Young men will ensure their wives get circumcised at the time of marriage.”

Progress hindered

Soon after being cut, the girls, who are drawn from communities in which up to 98 percent of women and girls have undergone FGM, said they struggled to continue with school.

They were absent for weeks to heal and also suffered infections and trauma, according to the report.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM
 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. 

The practice also provides social sanction for girls to be married off or have sex, often resulting in pregnancy.

Tony Mwebia of the Men End FGM campaign said visits to primary schools show that even as early as age 10, there are far fewer girls than boys. “Sometimes it’s just one or two girls compared to a whole lot of boys,” he said.

Campaigners said government and civil society had neglected remote, insecure regions where FGM was most prevalent. They called for specific budgets to be allocated to these areas, using positive messaging to engage with communities, and for better coordination between charities.

For Kuket, however, all is not lost.

After 20 years of marriage and seven children, she went back to school, finished her secondary education and has enrolled to work toward a degree in community development.

Also Read: ‘The Restorers’: Kenyan Girls Use Technology to Combat Female Genital Mutilation

She is also a prominent human rights activist in her community in western Tangulbei, where she rescues girls who are being forced to undergo FGM and pushed into child marriage.

“I don’t want any other girl to go through what I did,” she said. “FGM is a barrier to a girl’s progress in life — it ruins their lives.” (VOA)