In a first for the Counter-Terrorism Committee, the Security Council body holds open briefing on the role of women in countering terrorism and violent extremism
Despite the growing awareness of women playing an important role in terrorism and violent extremism – including as suicide bombers – the potential for women to act as a vital resource in policy and planning on countering violent extremism (CVE) has traditionally remained largely untapped. In 2013, this began to change, when the Security Council reaffirmed the Council's intention to increase its attention to women, peace and security issues in all relevant thematic areas of work on its agenda, including in threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts (resolution 2129). A more recent Security Council resolution, 2178 (2014) on stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, encourages Member States to engage relevant local communities in developing strategies to counter the violent extremist narrative that can incite terrorist acts and address the conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism, which can be conducive to terrorism, including by empowering inter alia youth, families, and women. And in its Presidential Statement of 28 October 2014 (S/PRST/2014/21), the Council noted that violent extremism is frequently targeting women and girls, which can lead to serious human rights violations and abuses against them, and encouraged Member States to engage with women and women's organizations in developing CVE strategies.
As a concrete follow-up, the Counter-Terrorism Committee on 9 September 2015 organized, for the first time ever, an open briefing on The role of women in countering terrorism and violent extremism. Three women's activists from three regions affected by terrorism and violent extremism – Hanaa Edwar from Iraq; Pastor Esther Ibanga from Nigeria; and Sureya Roble from Kenya – shared their testimonies with the Committee in New York. Other speakers included Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, H.E. Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaité, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the United Nations; Jean-Paul Laborde, Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED); and Yannick Glemarec, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy and Programme with UN Women. Moderator was Professor Jayne Huckerby with Duke University.
Describing the abduction of Yazidi women and girls by ISIS in her home country Iraq, Ms. Edwar said that "[They] were assaulted in practices reminiscent of practices in previous eras of history, such as the sale of women into sexual slavery, rape, torture, murder, not to mention the psychological violence of humiliation, threats, and forcing them to convert to Islam. At least more than 3,000 of the abducted women and girls are still being held." Ms. Edwar also pointed out that out of the 2,070 citizens executed in Mosul last July and August some 300 were women.
"Although the estimated number of foreign women who have joined ISIS is only 10 percent of the total number of Western men fighting, it is still significant that women are joining an organization that a majority of the world deems oppressive towards women and extraordinarily violent," Ms. Roble remarked.
Panellists, as well as numerous Member States, took the floor to point out the positive and proactive role that women can play to build resilience to radicalization to violence and conflict, inter alia through their influence on the family, community, and Government. Women's inclusion is therefore an indispensable component of any comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy.
"Even though in Nigeria, as well as most African nations, the involvement of women in security issues is not only seen as an alien culture but also a taboo and sometimes quite offensive to the men, women civil society groups tap into the needs of communities, where women and children are disproportionally impacted by terrorism," Pastor Ibanga said.
The open briefing on this theme being a first, the Counter-Terrorism Committee and CTED will continue its work on the role of women in countering terrorism and violent extremism.
Brief bios of the three participating women's activists
An advocate for women's rights and equality and for peace and democracy in Iraq, Ms. Hanaa Edwar is the Secretary-General of the Iraqi Al-Amal Association (IAA), an NGO working to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Iraqi people, and founder of the Iraqi Women's Network (IWN), which represents over 80 Iraqi women's groups.
Ms. Esther Ibanga is a Christian Pastor and interfaith peace activist who works in Plateau State, a highly volatile region of central Nigeria. In response to the ethno-religious conflicts that have afflicted the region since 1994, Pastor Ibanga has become a leader of a strong coalition of diverse women's groups united in their desire for peace.
Ms. Sureya Roble is a women's rights activist and national vice chairperson of the Mombasa-based Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO), a non-profit voluntary women's organization working to improve the quality of life of rural Kenyan communities, especially for women and youth.