Terrorism, while not new in the history of humanity, has become a major issue and challenge for contemporary society worldwide.

Recently it has become embodied and symbolized by ISIS in its many permutations in the Middle East, the focus of massive military intervention on the part of major world powers and of study, analysis, strategy and planning. One aspect that has distinguished ISIS from previous terrorist movements is a major migration of women, especially but not limited to Western Europe, joining the jihad proclaimed by the religious leaders of ISIS. This special issue on Female Migration to ISIS surveys and identifies the known or possible roots of the phenomenon and related issues, summarizes major known points relative to it, and outlines the future agenda of work, not only academic but also practical and strategic, to be followed. Balanced recommendations on how to build a promising intervention strategy, not only based on military force, are put forth for consideration and discussion.

The material contained in this special issue is the result of work of a group of international specialists who first met in Venice, Italy during April 2016. The majority of the experts were women. Eighteen countries were represented. The working meeting was held with the financial support of NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Program (ARW G5044). The main objectives of the project were:

1. to review as much as possible on an evidence-based methodology the reasons why women consider joining ISIS and their experience
2. to devise and build a well focused, pragmatic and effective plan to counteract the recruitment, persuasion and seduction exercised by ISIS or similar groups on women, especially very young ones, to migrate to its territory;
3. to focus on how to respond to the tactics used by ISIS and how to neutralize and counteract its messages. For example, an approach that was carefully studied involves three Ds: delegitimize, deglamorize, and demobilize.

Delegitimize violence by showing, for example, that violence is sanctioned neither by the Koran nor the Hadith. The conclusion of this project, reflected in this special issue, is that ISIS and other terrorist groups should be deglamorized, shown to be corrupt, hypocritical, and exploitative, especially of women. The story of how women who join ISIS are mostly used for sex, procreation, and domestic service and at times brutally assaulted, mistreated, forced to marry or sexually enslaved, abandoned and rejected must be told. This deglamorizing can be done also by stressing the devastation and total ruin caused by terrorist attacks against women and children and the appalling record of ISIS when it comes to women’s rights and dignity.

The group of experts also addressed the need to show and stress the futility of terrorism and thus the wisdom to demobilize, to leave.

Terrorists rarely, if ever, succeed in achieving their primary political or religious goals or in maintaining for a long time their control of territory and peoples. This is indeed true of ISIS as well, at least in the Middle East. An important aspect of the project was to study and propose mechanisms and pathways for women to exit terrorist organizations. Few of the current de-radicalization programs (whose effectiveness is questioned) have programs or facilities especially designed with women and children in mind. The goal was not to slavishly apply traditional concepts but to seek nuggets of insight from each to help forge new, effective ways to address the problem. Research, intervention and follow up on these issues open up many opportunities for scholars, professionals, practitioners and government officials to coordinate, cooperate and innovate. Originality; fine tuning in consonance with culture, religion and centuries-old values; and positive use of today’s technological breakthroughs are the basic, essential instruments needed to tackle this threat. Thus, the contribution of this special issue of the International Annals of Criminology to a reasoned discourse and innovative approaches on this continuing challenge is significant, current, on target and valuable. This issue is an important input to the ongoing debate and struggle to contain terrorism, especially when it reaches into our society, threatens our social fabric and demands prompt and effective action.

Emiliano C. Viano is the Editor of International Annals of Criminology. This new double special issue is available without charge until 30th January 2019.

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