Female Jihadis Use the Web, Not Bombs

Many questions remain surrounding Defne Bayrak, the wife of CIA bomber Humam al-Balawi, who blew himself up along with seven CIA employees in Afghanistan on Dec. 30. Did she put him up to the bombing? Is this a "divorce, jihadi style"? Read what she's said so far, and you're left wondering.

Al-Balawi first came across Bayrak in a chat room in the 1990s. An aspiring journalist, she had just started wearing the hijab—a clear political as well as religious statement in Turkey. While he struggled with his medical career, she pursued hers at Islamist newspapers and, eventually, as a jihadi propagandist. Over the past decade, this has become a key role for female sympathizers of Al Qaeda. "A significant development in women's participation in the global Jihad has been the dissemination of radical ideologies on-line," writes scholar Mia Bloom in a draft of her forthcoming book, Bombshell: Women and Terror. One of the most famous examples is Malika al-Aroud, the Belgian widow whose husband killed Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud in 2001. "It's not my role to set off bombs," al-Aroud told The New York Times. "I have a weapon. It's to write."

It's worth remembering that widows can gain status from their husband's "martyrdom." One famous bride, Rabia Hutchinson, is an Australian convert to Islam who's had so many husbands that she's been dubbed "the matriarch of radical Islam." Bayrak may earn a similar label in Turkey. What her plans for the future are, she has not yet said. But she seems unconcerned. "In my belief, it was [my husband's] time for death," she said. "You cannot postpone it. It is so in the Quran…He managed to do a big mission." One can only hope the next man she marries is not so effective.