Why Are the Media Sympathetic toward the Women of ISIS?

Islamic State fighters in Raqqa in July, in an image from the ISIS-affiliated Amaq News Agency (via Reuters)
They’re terrorists, not victims.

Editors Note: This piece wasoriginally published by Acculturated. It is reprinted here with permission.


A young blonde girl of 18 once joined a legion of women fighting for a cause, listing among her motivations the need for the “feminine ideal of nurturance.” Over the course of the next four years, she and her fellow female devotees to the cause would marry leaders of the cause, immerse themselves in its ideology, and engage in acts of depravity themselves.

Some of them turned their own friends and families in for noncompliance, some fed their prisoners to guard dogs, and the most brutal of them all made a lampshade with the skin of babies. When Irma Grese and Maria Mandl were hanged for their crimes as Nazi guards, they didn’t show much emotion. In fact, Jenny-Wanda Barkmann, the notorious officer of a prison camp, declared, “Life is full of pleasures, but pleasures are usually short.”

Seventy years on, revisionism abounds as ISIS wives and families claim to be victims. But these depraved women, just like other fascists before them, are no victims. Rather, they are a sign of the degradation of postmodern culture and a warning for the West to heed before it’s too late.

Recently, the Independent (U.K.) published a sympathetic portrayal of the ISIS wives now living in the “Little Britain of Raqqa.” The BBC joined in with its own story, which highlighted the voices of other women who had joined ISIS. Over the sound of mournful background music, an earnest BBC reporter asked the women questions about why they had gone with their husbands to ISIS territory — although a more honest questioner would have asked why these women fled their cushy Western lives to join a death cult with a murderous ideology that was killing people because of their religion and sexuality. Other media outlets have published similarly sympathetic stories, such as one about an affluent German girl who joined ISIS but now complains, “I just want to go home.”

Why are the media offering sympathetic airtime to terrorists? Is it because they happen to be women? In an era when social media, the Internet, and a 24/7 news cycle dominate the globe, it’s more than a little disingenuous to suggest that these women didn’t understand the ISIS agenda or the atrocities committed by its adherents.

Either they joined up for purely ideological reasons, knowing full well that they might possibly take part in a barbaric rampage, or they joined as thrill-seekers. Either way, they are responsible for their choices. The media want to portray these women as merely deluded; nearly all the stories about them imply that, far from being murderous zealots, they are wives and daughters and mothers who were just susceptible to ISIS’s anti-Western conspiracy theories. Or, as one wife of an ISIS fighter said, she went to join ISIS because she wanted to live a good Muslim life under sharia law — as if that was a reasonable excuse for joining an Islamic extremist group. (Sharia law has been invoked to justify punishments such as crucifixion and stoning to death for people accused of homosexuality or adultery, for example, and regularly called upon to justify honor killings of women and female genital mutilation.)

Why are the media offering sympathetic airtime to terrorists? Is it because they happen to be women?

As the BBC reporter noted, in an epic understatement, “It’s hard to determine if the women who all escaped [from ISIS strongholds] are victims.” Even a lawyer who represents the families of some ISIS women and who spoke to the BBC noted that it’s impossible to distinguish between the women who now say they genuinely “regret” their decision to fight for ISIS and the ones who want to come back to further the goals of ISIS through terrorism. There is, after all, an all-female ISIS brigade called the “Khansaa” that acts as a strict enforcer for ISIS, and women have been key players in the organization’s terror campaign. Take, for example, the infamous “White Widow,” a British woman named Sally Jones who went to Syria with her husband to fight for ISIS and became an “ISIS poster girl” and recruiter for the organization. News reports now suggest she, too, wants to come back to the U.K. Should someone who acted as a “prolific propagandist for ISIS and has published ‘kill lists’ of targets and announced her wish to behead Christians online” be welcomed back to the West with open arms?

For years in many Western countries, healthy civic nationalism has been frowned upon by global elites; meanwhile, extremist ideologies draw recruits from across the globe. The human need to wave a tribal flag of allegiance manifests itself in the Black Flag of ISIS, which has rallied many people who were born and brought up in the West, but who never identified with Western Enlightenment values, to flock to an extremist society that gives their lives meaning.

After years of fighting and death and destruction, it should be clear that men and women who willingly joined ISIS do not share Western values. Why should the West welcome them back with open arms in the name of “rehabilitation”?


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