Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Legal Studies

First Advisor

Ashleen Williams

Relational Format



This paper discusses the shift in women’s roles in Islamic extremist groups over the last two decades. Focusing on three violent Sunni groups, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, and ISIS, the research aims to fill gaps in United States and global counterterrorism and reintegration efforts by providing a comprehensive, accurate, and timely assessment of the recent change in women’s roles in terrorist organizations, shifting from foundational to limited operational to fully operational. The shift occurred and continues to unfold as several moving parts have fallen into place to create this situation. Women’s desire to participate at a more operational level, the need on behalf of the organization(s) to employ female combatants, and the willingness of Muslim religious scholars and leaders to permit female involvement in jihadist operations. While many disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs consider gender, there is need for a more nuanced gender-based approach which utilizes the knowledge of why this shift is occurring and how it affects women’s place within these groups and their societies.



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