Mountaineer Undergraduate Research Review

Document Type



Terrorism is loosely defined as acts of violence, which are intended to invoke fear into the population, are perpetrated with a political, ideological, or religious goal, and are committed by nongovernmental organizations, which target or disregard civilian casualties. For these contemporary terrorist organizations, suicide bombers are today’s weapon of choice in comparison with traditional armed methods and guerrilla tactics. Suicide bombers are now used by 17 terror organizations in 14 countries in order to obtain various political goals (Schweitzer 2006, 14). The institute for Counter-Terrorism defined suicide bombing as an “operational method in which the very act of the attack is dependent upon the death of the perpetrator” (Zedalis 2009, 2). The term “suicide bomber” carries heavy emotional weight, as some emphasize the murder and terror produced from this act, while others glorify them as martyrs.

Terrorist organizations are increasingly using suicide bombers because they are cheap, low risk, and do not require sophisticated technology. These weapons are also widely available, require little training, and effectively instill fear into the general population. In terms of casualties, suicide bombers are presently one of the most efficient forms of terrorism. “From 1980 to 2001, suicide attacks accounted for 3 percent of terrorist incidents but caused half of the total deaths due to terrorism―even if one excludes the unusually large number of fatalities of 9/11” (Pape 2003). The effectiveness of this weapon is dependent upon the element of surprise and accessibility of their targets; this requirement has recently been met using women who escape the stereotyped profile of a suicide bomber. Female suicide bombers have been used in a variety of venues, countries, and terrorist organizations, including developing states such as India, Turkey, Palestine, Chechnya, and Sri Lanka (Zedalis 2009, 13). Comprehending the use of women as suicide bombers is crucial for informing security studies to include women, who might otherwise have been ignored. Therefore, the development of female suicide bombers demands careful study of this strategic weapon through the analysis of bomber characteristics and motivations, specific examination of recent cases, and how these women are portrayed in the media. This study argues that female suicide bombers are used as a tactical weapon and are frequently forced to commit these acts of violence through religious and political rhetoric as well as patriarchal norms.