Girls of Jihad: Western Women and the Lure of ISIS
WASHINGTON -- Why would a woman leave her home and family to join the Islamic State? Among the thousands of Westerners headed to the Middle East to join the terror group, a shocking number of them are young women.
Shannon Conley was one of them. For months before Conley's arrest, FBI agents met with her repeatedly.
They warned the 19-year-old Muslim convert that her plan to travel to Syria and help ISIS was illegal.
Conley, however, had made up her mind. She wanted to leave her suburban Denver home to marry an ISIS fighter she had met online.
Agents stopped her at Denver's airport before she could carry out her plan. Yet there are many more like her.
Last month, three teenage girls, also from suburban Denver, were detained while trying to make their way to Syria. But hundreds of other young women from Western countries have made it to the Islamic State -- marrying ISIS fighters and even fighting alongside them.
"I have a huge concern regarding the women going back because that's again a part of building a new society; that's the marketing that's going on. A lot of women here are finding that an attractive option," former Ramsey County, Minnesota, sheriff Bob Fletcher told CBN News.
Ramsey County includes the city of St. Paul. At least four Somali women from St. Paul and neighboring Minneapolis have traveled to Syria in recent months to join ISIS.
"While they are recruiting men, they promise them wives when they get there," Fletcher explained. "They need women in their society to keep their fighters content. It's a scary thing, but the women are really being used in a variety of ways once they get there."
In some cases, these women act as much more than jihadi brides.
A group of British women reportedly led an all-female Sharia police unit inside the ISIS-controlled Syrian city of Raqqa. These British nationals enforce Islamic dress codes and even reportedly run a brothel where they provide sex slaves to ISIS fighters.
So far, most of them come from Europe. The numbers include at least 50 British women, 40 from Germany and some 60 French girls and young women, all leaving their homes to join the Islamic State.
The so-called "poster girls" for this movement are a pair of Austrian teenagers who are believed to be living in Syria and married to ISIS fighters. The girls are reportedly pregnant and want to come home.
"The women -- this is al Qaeda extremist, what you call ISIS, al-Shabaab -- one of their great powers is the element of surprise I believe for the girls they are using the element of surprise," Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali community activist, told CBN News.
"There is a precedent for female terrorists: dozens of Muslim women from Chechnya and Dagestan have carried out suicide bombings against Russian targets in recent years," Bihi said.
But ISIS is taking things to another level by actively recruiting women online. ISIS promises them husbands and a wonderful new life in the Caliphate -- a place where, ironically enough, women have no rights or freedoms.