A few months ago I wrote a piece called: “Are Boko Haram’s female suicide bombers underpaid?” It was a response to a Newsweek headline that said: “Boko Haram paid would-be teenage suicide bomber ‘less than $1’.” (For those that never heard of Boko Haram, it’s a Nigerian-based Islamic terror organization.)
The Newsweek article featured a 14-year-old girl and her friend. These two were instructed by Boko Haram to detonate their explosive vests in a crowded place in the city. The two girls wore the vests for three days before entering the city. Once in the city, they were immediately spotted by the police, ordered to remove their explosive vests; the 14-year-old girl complied, but her friend refused and the police shot her dead.
During the police interrogation of the 14-year-old girl it was discovered that Boko Haram paid them for their suicide mission, and their payment of ‘less than $1’ was the “attention grabber” of Newsweek’s headline. I found the headline disturbing because the moral outrage centered on the low wage instead of the immorality of suicide bombing.
Recently, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and Yale University released a study about Boko Haram. Their findings made me remember the anonymous girl in Newsweek’s story, the one that refused to remove her explosive vest. Her decision-making process should have been included in that story, because it would have revealed the psychological terror of being born the wrong gender in Boko Haram territory.
If you recall, the two teenage girls didn’t enter the city for three days.
What did they discuss? Did they compare their explosive vests? Did they exchange stories of being tortured and raped? Did they talk about their mothers? And if their mothers were dead, did they exchange those stories of death? Or did they just laugh at the irony of feeling free for the first time in their young lives right before they detonated themselves in a crowded place?
Now, fast forward to when the police had the two girls at gunpoint. The girl that removed her explosive vest obviously feared for her life. (This could mean she still valued her life.) But the other girl might not have removed her vest because she wanted to remain free and never return to Boko Haram bondage. So, instead of being a suicide bomber, she decided to allow the police to assist her in suicide.
No one can determine whether or not she made the right decision to die in that fashion, but maybe some data from the researchers at the Combating Terrorism Center can give us a better understanding of the world she departed.
Four hundred thirty-four suicide bombings have been carried out by Boko Haram since 2011. In the 338 attacks, in which the bombers’ gender could be identified, 244 were carried out by women.
So far in 2017 Boko Haram has sent 80 women to their deaths.
The study stated, “Boko Haram has shattered demographic stereotypes as to what a suicide bomber looks like. It is the first terrorist group in history to use more woman suicide bombers than men, and it is at the vanguard of using children as suicide bombers.” (The youngest bomber was 7 years old.)
The study also pointed out that women and children are more susceptible to Boko Haram’s recruitment tactics (violence, brainwashing, and false promises) than their male counterparts. One former insurgent told a researcher that women were cheap and using women allowed Boko Haram to save their men.
In other words, women and female children are expendable.
Boko Haram has been translated to mean: Western Education is a Sin.
But even the worst sinners in The West are appalled when women and children are killed in air strikes, but Boko Haram seems only to be appalled when a brainwashed little girl, sentenced to a suicide mission, chooses police-assisted suicide over martyrdom.
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier. He blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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