Afghan Women and Violent Extremism: Colluding, Perpetrating, or Preventing?
Women’s role in violent extremism has too often been simplified to a binary: either victim of the choices of men or deviant anomaly. Women play a diverse range of roles in violent extremism in Afghanistan—as they do around the world—not only as peacebuilders but also as recruiters, sympathizers, perpetrators, and preventers. Roles and motivations vary, but what is clear is that the construct of disempowered victims simply does not hold true for all women involved. Women’s roles in violent extremism and the underlying reasons behind those roles need to be fully understood and appropriately reflected in policy and practice. Women’s rights and place in society are central to the narratives of violent extremist groups, and these narratives are the terrain on which women in Afghanistan fight to establish their rights. Women have the potential, whether through their own involvement or as family members of those who are involved, to counter radicalization dynamics. Countering violent extremism (CVE) and preventing violent extremism (PVE) programming needs to include women as specific target groups, be engendered more generally, and address the underlying issues of women’s status and agency.