A National Security Blind Spot
Erin Saltman saw a disturbing trend. For months, the senior counter-extremism researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue had obsessively tracked the profiles of more than 130 Western women who had joined the Islamic State (ISIS). Saltman and her team noticed that instead of journeying through Turkey to reach ISIS headquarters in Syria, the women were heading straight to Libya. Because women’s roles within ISIS are related mostly to reproduction and consolidating territory, Saltman was able to deduce the reason: “ISIS wasn’t just looking to have combat forces in Libya, but also to build statehood there,” she explained. “We flagged and highlighted that before security forces were aware of it.”
To Saltman, investing time and money to think about the differences between men’s and women’s movement in ISIS wasn’t “about gender equality. It was about having a better grasp on the security issues at hand.”
But plenty of research cements the gender and security connection. Data2X, WomanStats, and Inclusive Security are just a few of the many organizations that have made it their mission to gather in global databases this kind of gender-differentiated data and research, providing irrefutable and empirical proof that women’s status is inextricably linked to state power, stability, corruption, prosperity, and many other indicators.
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