Samira Ahmed Jassim al-Azzawi has been accused of recruiting more than 80 Iraqi women as suicide bombers, though she only admits to around 30. How did she do it?
According to her own interview: she did it by helping set up rape squads and then preying on their victims.
In a prison interview with the Associated Press — with interrogators nearby — she said that she helped to organise the rapes of young women and then stepped in to persuade the victims to become suicide bombers as their only escape from the shame.
Her taped confession, which has been broadcast throughout Iraq is reportedly bad PR for al Qaeda, if that's any consolation, though the rape squad reports have yet to be independently verified.
Last year, some questioned whether media obsession with the personal motivations of the female suicide bombers involved in the uptick in female suicide bombers in Iraq — especially among the very young and disabled — was sexist. Jassim's story seems to indicate that her organization was specifically targeting emotionally vulnerable women, rather than politically-motivated women — and that if her group couldn't find the former, it would create them.
She also appeared to confirm what many military and intelligence officials had asserted: that insurgents prey on women in dire social and economic situations who are often suffering from emotional or psychological problems, or abuse.
An apparently typical story from Jassim's confession runs like this:
“Another woman was Amal,” she said, recounting another attack, this one a suicide bombing in December 2007 that killed 15 at a meeting of the Sunni Awakening movement in Diyala. Amal was a teacher, she said.
“I met her, and for more than two weeks I tried to convince her,” she said. “She was living in difficult conditions. Her husband and his family were having problems with her brothers. She was in bad psychological shape.”
Amal later blew herself up. Jassim has similar stories of an elderly woman that she made great effort to recruit — elderly women can have great difficulties surviving in Iraq these days — as well as a woman that seemed somewhat mentally disturbed before her suicide:
“When I was talking to her, she was not answering or looking at me,” Ms. Jassim said. “She was mumbling verses of the Koran.”
“I got her to the bank and left her there,” she went on, unemotionally. “She detonated herself at a police station in Muqdadiya.”
Jassim may have taken the nickname "the mother of the believers," but it doesn't sound much like she got anyone to believe in a particular political or religious ideology: she just got a group of women to believe that they were better off dead, and better off taking a few innocent souls with them.
Iraq Arrests Woman Tied to Bombings [New York Times]
'Female Suicide Bomb Recruiter' Samira Ahmed Jassim Captured [Times of London]
Al-Qaeda Damaged By Arrest Of 'Rape And Suicide Bomb' Woman [Times of London]