TCS Daily – Suicide Girls

My latest piece for TCS Daily, “Suicide Girls,” is now up. The piece examines the history of female suicide terrorists and how differently they are regarded than their male counterparts.

Suicide has been used as a weapon of resistance since the Zealots of the 1st Century A.D. and suicide bombings have been around since the Assassins pioneered the tactic in the 11th Century. The first known female suicide bomber was Khyadali Sana, a 16-year-old member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party who killed two members of the Israeli Defense Force with a truck bomb on April 9, 1985. The modern trend can be dated from May 21, 1991, when Thenmuli Rajaratnam, a 17-year-old Tamil Tiger, killed former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi using a bomb strapped to her person.

Despite this long history, and the fact that dozens of women have joined Sana and Rajaratnam, suicide bombing in general and women bombers in particular continues to have shock effect far in excess of its objective destructive power.

I actually wrote the piece on December 6 in response to a the bombing of the Baghdad police academy by what was initially reported as a female suicide bomber. It’s timeliness diminished hours after submission when forensic evidence pointed to a male bomber.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. GordonFliest says:

    A post on the Suicide Girls website might be a bit more interesting!

  2. LJD says:

    ‘It’s hard to imagine a similar reaction to a 38-year-old male who murdered an American soldier.’

    Perhaps because they have more compassion for the bomber (of either sex) than they do for the soldier?

    It is ironic that a culture that refuses women the right to vote, the right to work or be any type of supervisor, denies their right to speak their mind, forces them to remain covered in public, would condone or even encourage women to blow themselves up.

    Isn’t the status of martyr reserved exclusively for men? Are women allowed to be ‘warriors’ in islamic culture? Do they get 69 male virgins?