JUNE 2, 2017 AMMAN, JORDAN—One thing drove university graduate Emna from abandoning her middle-class life in Tunisia to carry the so-called Islamic State’s banner in neighboring war-torn Libya.

She was not swayed by some suave jihadi, she says, not running away from a broken home, nor a repressed life or poverty – nor any of the other rationales that have been supplied to explain women’s participation in ISIS’s brutal jihadist campaign, which has generated countless stories of beheadings, massacres, and sexual slavery.

She joined for one simple reason.

“I wanted to defend Sunni Muslims,” says Emna, using her nom de guerre, via Skype from Tunisia.

Yet unlike the estimated 200 or so male ISIS recruits who have returned home to Tunisia from foreign battlefields, the 24-year-old has not faced prison time.

For nearly three years, the role of women in ISIS has been marginalized or trivialized by the press and public.


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Featured image courtesy of Spanish Interior Ministry