While it is now widely known that ISIS leaders have started to recruit women to its numbers, only more recently have these recruiting efforts of women commenced in Indonesia.
This phenomenon has been documented by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), which focuses on Southeast Asia.
According to the report made by IPAC, women in Indonesia, a country that is home to the fourth largest population in the world and largest Muslim population in the world, have been influenced by means of social media to connect with Islamic extremist organizations like ISIS.
The report also explains how the traditional role for women in Indonesia of being mothers and housewifes has evolved to include active military roles.
IPAC encourages Indonesia to immediately investigate the women who are involved in extremist networks before things get out of hand. The report notes that women who are especially susceptible to radicalization are women deportees and women in migrant worker communities.
In a country known for its high social media usage, these women are now able to read ISIS propaganda, engage in extremist chat forums, participate in international jihadi matchmaking, and organize fundraising and logistical support — a far cry from the pre-2009 days where women had to pretend to be men in order to participate in such online activities.
“The absence of any hierarchical structure on the internet meant that no one could tell women to stop propagating jihad, especially when they used their own accounts,” explains the report, “If anything, men eventually realised that women played an indispensible role in the development of the jihadi virtual community.”
Immediately following the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, when some reports falsely claimed the atrocities had involved Europe’s “first female suicide bomber,” women from Indonesia began to populate pro-ISIS forums.
Just last December, Indonesian authorities arrested two women, Dian Yulia Novi and Ika Puspitasari, for volunteering for suicide missions.
Novi, 27, was radicalized online while working in Taiwan. She is suspected of planning an attack on Indonesia’s presidential palace. Puspitasari, who was active in the same network, was arrested for allegedly planning to carry out an attack on the Indonesian island of Bali.
Bahrum Naim, Indonesia’s leading proponent of ISIS, has provided radicalized women with financial support and has commented that since women don’t arouse suspicion as terrorists, they therefore are precious assets. The Syrian-based Naim is believed to have been an architect of a terrorist attack in Jakarta last January that left eight people dead.
Anis Hidayah, the executive director of Migrant Care, warns of the vulnerability of migrant workers with respect to radicalization.
“It’s very open for ISIS to approach these circles of migrant workers. Some in Hong Kong and Taiwan have already been exposed, and we have indications that there are more than have been reported,” she says.
The fact that these women are also earning their own money has also led male leadership to see them as sources of cash and donations.
Since 2013, over 100 Indonesian women and children have crossed the Turkey-Syria border to join ISIS, and many more have been deported.