The Pakistani Taliban has launched a women’s magazine aimed at encouraging women to take up arms and practise jihad.
Titled Sunnat-i-Khaula, which translates as “The Way of Khaula” – in reference to a 7th-century female Muslim poetess who was close to the Prophet Mohammed, the front cover of its inaugural issue features a woman veiled from head to toe.
“We want to provoke women of Islam to come forward and join the ranks of mujahideen,” reads an opening editorial.
“Organise secret gatherings at home and invite like-minded jihadi sisters,” the editorial continues. “Distribute literature reflecting on the obligation of jihad, arrange physical training classes for sisters. Learn how to operate simple weapons. Learn the use of grenades.”
The digitally distributed, 45-page magazine has been published by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, the most dangerous radical Islamist group operating in Pakistan.
Target readership: educated teens and mothers
Written in English, Sunnat-i-Khaula is targeted at educated women. It features an interview with the wife of TTP chief Fazlullah Khorasani, who married him at 14, where she makes the case for child marriage.
“I ask you why now everywhere there is a hue and cry about underage marriages … We have to understand that mature boys and girls if left unmarried for too long can become a source of moral destruction of the society,” she says.
The article has been ridiculed by Lahore-based social activist and blogger Ahsan Rizvi, who mocked the idea that “being umarried for too long” could lead to “moral destruction”.
— Ahsan Rizvi (@AhsanAbbasShah) August 2, 2017
Another article, ‘My journey from ignorance to guidance’, is written by a Pakistani doctor and narrates her decision to shun her Western education and embrace a life of jihad.
A third is a letter purporting to be from a six-year-old boy studying at a religious seminary and TTP-training ground. The boy says his brother was killed while carrying out a suicide attack in Pakistan and that he helps his mother look after mujahideen, as he plays with toy guns and waits for his own jihadi experience.
“Women are a strategic demographic because they have the ability to exert influence over their sons,” Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center in the US, told British daily The Guardian. “If women are converted to the militant cause, they can encourage their sons – or daughters for that matter – to join it as well.”
Imitation of the Islamic State group
TTP has been using women as suicide bombers since 2010-2011, according to the Daily Times in Pakistan. However, the group’s use of women has been insignificant compared to that of the Islamic State (IS) group.
The launch of Sunnat-i-Khaula indicates TTP’s desire to imitate the IS group by drawing more women to its cause, both as fighters and jihadi wives.
“Attracting women and explicitly debating what role they should have is in line with the emerging focus other groups have in the region,” Tore Hamming, a militant Islamism researcher at the European University Institute, told FRANCE 24.
Describing the magazine as “horribly bad design-wise”, Hamming added: “The TTP publication is almost an evolution of the IS group’s efforts, as the IS group never published an English-language online magazine focused on women. It only included women-focused [supplements] in two issues of its Dabiq print magazine, which was distributed in the areas they controlled.”
Sunnat-i-Khaula is testament to TTP’s ambition to re-assert itself. “This is a struggling organisation that is trying to re-establish networks and membership after being hit hard on the battlefield in recent years,” says Kugelman.