In the hope of casting light on the numerous questions about how gender and Violent Extremism are related, the Brussels International Center for Research (BIC-R) launched a series of essays that aims to trace the multiple trajectories, formation and transformations that have defined the roles of women and men with regard to violent extremism. Seen through a broad historical and gender lenses, this series is an endeavor to understand the intractable, inter-connected questions concerning women’s and men’s agency and subjectivity in processes of violent extremism.
USING AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH, WE INVESTIGATE THE INTER-CONNECTED QUESTIONS BETWEEN GENDER AND VIOLENT EXTREMISM.
GENDER AND VIOLENT EXTREMISM
Given the constant ramification and ambivalence surrounding violent extremism and gender, we see both systems as critical to understanding the contemporary and transnational currents that effect our societies.
The series, which contains 7 chapters, explores multiple themes, ranging from gender to security and from policy frameworks to initiatives being conducted on the ground. Questions such as the influences of masculinity and femininity were explored as a way to uncover the many layers of a conflict and its dynamics.
In many regions that have already faced internal strife for decades, such as Nigeria and Syria, extremist groups have proliferated and aligned. In these conflict-settings, acts of violence tend to be highly gendered and usually exploit rigid stereotypes about masculinity and femininity. For instance, men and boys are routinely targeted for recruitment. Another example, which is explored in chapter 6, can be found in the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in their exploitation of gender norms and portrayal of women as the ‘future mothers of jihadi children’ or when the armed group target men using the message that male fighters will be rewarded with as many women as they wish. Accordingly, using a gender lens also includes men and boys, as gender refers to the different needs, experience and status of both women and men based in a social-cultural construct.
IN OUR VIEW, DE-RADICALIZATION OR PREVENTIVE EFFORTS ON VIOLENT EXTREMISM (P/CVE) HAS TO HAVE A SIGNIFICANT AND SUBSTANTIAL INCLUSION OF A GENDER PERSPECTIVE FOR THE SAKE OF ENHANCING ITS OPERATIONAL, POLICY AND PROGRAMS’ EFFECTIVENESS.
Therefore, by perceiving, discovering and reflecting on the connections between gender and violence in conflict-settings, the series ‘Rigid Boundaries’ aims to show how rigid both concepts are perceived from a security point of view and how this can hamper counter-terrorism and anti-radicalization efforts.
In our view, de-radicalization or preventive efforts on violent extremism (P/CVE) has to significantly and substantially include a gender perspective for the sake of enhancing their operational, policy and programs’ effectiveness.
Altogether, the series advocates for a paradigm shift in the understanding of violent extremism; one that includes gender at the core of the phenomenon, while also calling for a multi-dimensional and relational understanding of gender relations.