Indonesian women are taking on a more active role in violent extremism, with some seeking to become Islamic State (IS) group suicide bombers, a leading security think tank has warned.
The growing problem was highlighted after the arrest in December of two women with links to IS allegedly planning suicide attacks in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, according to a report from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC).
Many from Indonesia — which has long struggled with Islamic militancy — have flocked to join IS in the Middle East, while radicals in the country have pledged allegiance to the group and attacks and plots have been linked to the militants.
But the increasing eagerness of Indonesian women to get involved in radicalism themselves, rather than merely support their extremist husbands, poses new risks, said the report from IPAC, which is headed by veteran Indonesian security analyst Sidney Jones. “Indonesian women in extremist organisations are now catching up with the lethal practices of their sisters in other parts of the world,” according to the study.
Increasing female involvement is linked to the appeal of IS but also to the growing sophistication of social media, which allows more women to read the extremists’ propaganda and take part in radical chat forums, said the report, which was released late Tuesday.
The most high-profile cases were the arrest of two former domestic workers, Dian Yulia Novi and Ika Puspitasari, who had allegedly volunteered to become suicide bombers in Jakarta and Bali. Leading Indonesian IS radical Bahrun Naim, who has been accused of directing a series of mostly botched terror plots in his homeland from Syria, had given them instructions and financial support, the report said.
Authorities detained Novi and her husband the night before a planned attack on the presidential palace in Jakarta and later picked up Puspitasari, who was part of the same network and had been planning to carry out a bombing on the holiday island of Bali, the report said. Other women have been arrested for offences including setting up a pro-IS charity, helping to make a bomb, and being fighters with a militant group on Sulawesi island.
IPAC called for the Indonesian government to try to find out more about female radical networks, including interviewing the many women who have been deported from Turkey after allegedly trying to cross into Syria to join IS. “The need to know more about Indonesian extremist women suddenly has become urgent,” it said. Indonesia’s national counter-terror agency declined to comment.