How the Islamic State uses women to control women

The Islamic State’s all-female Khansaa Brigade, formed in early 2014 and charged with policing the public morality of women in A-Raqqa city, has captured the attention of the Western news media with details of the group’s woman-on-woman violence.

Khansaa is a famous personality from early Islamic history, a poet who embraced Islam and later lost four of her sons in battle. When Khansaa received news of their deaths, she reportedly said, “thanks to God who honored me with their martyrdom.”

Here, Abu Ibrahim a-Raqawi, the pseudonym of a founding member of the A-Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently campaign and a resident of the city, talks to Syria Direct’s Ghardinia Ashour in depth about the brigade and life in the so-called Caliphate, where women are forced to wear heavy layers of clothing year-round, including two face veils, one opaque and one transparent.

Q: Tell me about the creation of the Khansaa Brigade?

In 2014, some individuals from the FSA entered A-Raqqa city [disguised] in “Islamic” women’s clothing and conducted a series of assassinations against IS leaders and soldiers using guns equipped with silencers. This pushed IS to think about establishing a women’s brigade under the name of Khansaa, whose primary function would be to watch the checkpoints, to watch women coming and going and make sure they weren’t smuggling weapons, and that they were in fact women and not men dressed as women.