Surprisingly, jihadi groups like ISIS do not only attract female supporters coming from Muslim communities, but also Western women who grew up in non- Muslim environments. Trauma, depression and the need for a more exciting life outside the constraints of Western society brought some women to embrace the political cause of waging jihad and supporting terrorism. This book discovers the hidden psychological and sociological drivers that can lead young Western women to support jihadi ideology, violence and sometimes suicide. Through real and uncanny stories, supported by reliable official data, the book provides a scientific analysis of the mechanisms that can lead any “girl next door” to approve and passionately fall for a destructive movement, which she perceives as a heroic, romantic and empowering act.

Anna Zizola is an open sources and policy analyst, cultural journalist and editor specialized in analytical work related to terrorism and radicalization. She is currently working at the European Commission in Brussels, at the DG Migration and Home Affair.

Paolo Inghilleri M.D. is professor of Social Psychology at the University of Milan. He’s author and editor of several books such as From Subjective Experience to Cultural Change and Enabling Positive Change.



An Introduction: Clear Actions, Hidden Mechanisms

1. The Active Role of Women in the Jihad
1.1 Women are as Capable of Violence as men
1.2 Women as Perpetrators and Supporters of Violence and Terrorism
1.3 The Role of Women in the Main Jihadist Groups
1.3.1 Sexual Jihad
1.3.2 Women in Al-Qaeda
1.3.3 Women in ISIS
2. From the Mind to the Politics: mamain Causes of Women Radicalizazation
2.1 Social Factors: Feeling of Isolation, Lack of Integration and Identity
2.2 Romanticization as Pull Factor of the Jihad
2.3 Political Push Factors: Desire for Revenge and Frustration at the Lack of Defense of the Muslim Community
2.4 Religious Duty and Ideology as a Political Movement
2.5 Psycho-anthropological Factors: a Complementarist Explanation
2.6 Psychological Factors: Flow of Consciousness, Positive Heroism and the Role of Mentors
2.7 Psychological Factors: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

3. Women and Islamist Online Propapaganda
3.1 Introduction to Online Radicalization
3.2 The Role of Women in the Internet and Social Media’s Islamist Propaganda
3.3 Women in the Online Magazines Dabiq and Inspire
3.4 Women as Online Recruiters

4. Case Studies of Western Female Jihadists
4.1  Fatima Az Zahra, the Italian “Lady Jihad”
4.1.1 Fatima’s Profile and the Psycho-Social Reasons for her Radicalization
4.2  Sophie Kasiki, the Repentant Jihadist who Escaped from Raqqa
4.2.1 Psychological Profile of Sophie Kasiki
4.3  Jihadi Jane: the American Jihadist with a Traumatic Past
4.4 Imane: the 19 Year-Old who Almost Went on a Suicide Attack
4.5 Jihadi Jones: the British ISIS Recruiter
4.6 Fatima’s Husband’s Story: an Example of Women’s Influence
4.7 Common Drivers and Psychological Dynamics

5. Women in Counter-Terrorism Programs
5.1 The UN Resolution on “Empowering Women to Address the Impact of Terrorism”
5.2 Examples of Women Active in Countering Terrorism in Local Communities and Online
5.3 Tunisia to Involve Women in Counter-terrorism Programs
5.4 Mothers schools: a Project by “Women Without Borders”
6. Conclusions