Women and Radicalization in Indonesia

Mr Rayvinder Jit Singh Athwal1, Dr Mohammed  Ilyas1
1The University of Liverpool in Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

Rayvinder Jit Singh Athwal is a graduate from the University of Liverpool. He holds a BA (HONS) in Criminology & Security. His research focuses on terrorism with a specific interest in deradicalization models and risk assessment methodologies. His other research interests include institutional racism, gender studies and collective identities.

In 2015, the Indonesian government reported that at least 700 Indonesians had travelled to Syria to partake in the civil war. As the civil war in both Iraq and Syria raged on, at least 162 Indonesians had returned home with some having fought for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In addition, several hundred Indonesians were arrested for attempting to cross into Syria via its border with Turkey. Within the radicalization discourse, there is scant literature about the radicalization journey of Muslims in Southeast Asia. Although there have been several studies conducted about Muslims in Southeast Asia, these studies primarily focus on radicalization and experiences of men.  The lack of literature about the radicalization process of women can be attributed to the gendered nature of the terrorism and radicalization discourse. Women are often viewed to be a ‘vulnerable’ population who are victims of terror attacks or spouses of terrorists. This dominant narrative portrays women as neither having agency nor politics and being easily manipulated by men. This paper addresses the current gaps within the radicalization literature by exploring the various themes of interviews that were conducted with Indonesian women who have returned from Syria.


Dr Mohamed Ilyas is a lecturer in Sociology and Criminology at the University of Liverpool. His research focuses on global terrorism and hate crimes with a specific interest in new modes of terrorism and innovative de-radicalisation methodologies. He further explores questions of gender and militancy, gender-based crime in conflict zones and intra-Muslim hate. Currently, he is developing alternative prevention and de-radicalisation methods.


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