Originally published under the title, "ISIS's Nazi-Style 'Jihad Bride' Propaganda an Alluring Trap for Western Girls."
Foreign women are often lured into ISIS by propaganda videos suggesting a life of combat and adventure, but find themselves forced into domestic servitude or policing other women.
Foreign girls who are lured via the internet to join ISIS are being misled by a glamorized vision of women posing with AK-47s and in martial arts positions—in essence, a vision of women performing forbidden, male-only holy mission tasks.
ISIS propaganda is capitalizing on the allure of such adventure coupled with a girlish desire forr love, marriage, and children. Quilliam Foundation think tank researcher Charlie Winter notes that "this is a false image based on targeted obfuscation and exaggeration." He quotes Glasgow runaway, Aqsa Mahmood, who writes that "the women you may have seen online are all part of propaganda."
The reality for ISIS "brides" is dull, domestic, and dangerous. Food and electricity are minimal, there are no schools, but there are constant air strikes and gun fights. Women police and punish other women. They do not engage in battle.
The reality for ISIS "brides" is dull, domestic, and dangerous.
The all-female Al-Khanssaa Brigade holds an anti-feminist ideology in which women's rights are seen as part of a corrupt and material West and as having led to the emasculation of men.
According to ISIS internet recruiter and former Australian Dullel Kassab, "Reality hits you when u celebrate a walimah (marriage banquet) and console a widow on the same day."
Then, there is the scarcity of medical care. The wife of an ISIS fighter was totally ignored as her blood pooled on the hospital floor during a painful miscarriage. According to Kassab: "She wasn't offered a chair or a bed and nobody even returned to check on her… The muhajireen (migrants) are also subjected to mistreatment and discrimination by the locals."
The Syrians do not want to live under Sharia law. They are, in fact, "angered by… the imposition of an extreme form of sharia on their daily lives."
Members of the ISIS' all-female al-Khansaa' Brigade, operating in Raqqa, Syria
In February of 2015, ISIS released a Manifesto which states that girls can marry at nine; their education, which must consist mainly of Koranic Studies and home economics, must end when they turn fifteen; they must be fully face-, head-, and body-veiled; and motherhood is the sole purpose of female existence.
This is reminiscent of Hitler's Nazi "Bride Schools" in which office workers and career women were taught how to be wives. Propaganda photos consisted of smiling group of women in a hayfield, carrying baskets of flowers, "chopping vegetables in a kitchen, and singing along to another woman's accordion playing."
This country idyll promoted a six-week course in which women learned household skills such as cooking, ironing, gardening, child care, and interior design. They were taught how to clean a husband's uniform, to pledge their loyalty to Hitler "until death," and to raise their children "in accordance with Nazi belief." This meant they would "promote racial values in the family."
Traditional domesticity: confinement to the home, child care, and to a political religion ("Kinder, Küche, Kirche") was presented as a warrior's task.
ISIS may have taken a page from Hitler's playbook—but they are also following the harshest and most traditional Islamic theological interpretations: "A woman's highest achievement is motherhood;" "Women must be veiled;" "The majority of inhabitants in Hell are women;" "Women are less intelligent and spiritually inferior to men;" "Women are an affliction to men."
Most telling, "Women are not to be involved in Jihad": "When Aisha requested of Mohammed that she be allowed to participate in a jihad, he said that a woman's jihad is the performance of the Hajj pilgrimage. It is even important for a husband to forsake a jihad campaign to accompany his wife on a Hajj."
A concerted effort must be made to reveal this reality to young Western girls who actually have choices. The problem is that girls in the West also want adventure through romance, love through bondage. Think of the popularity of Fifty Shades of Gray. Western girls have also been brought up on fairy tales and believe in Happy Endings. They do not understand that they are walking into a very tragic kind of danger from which there may be No Exit.
Phyllis Chesler, an emerita professor of psychology and women's studies and the author of fifteen books, is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.