Women but also girls have found themselves among those from Kosovo in the Middle East wars. Some of them had personally decided to take this road, the decision was imposed on some others to join their husbands together with their children. According to data provided by the Kosovo Police, approximately 44 women and 29 children have traveled to Syria.
In case husbands of these women are killed, they remain in the mercy of the extremist groups.
This view is shared by journalists who investigated this phenomenon, Albana Xharra and Serbeze Haxhiaj.
“Few months after their husbands are killed, they are forced to marry on the basis of the Islamic state,” says journalist Haxhiaj.
She states that these women end up in sealed camps, and exposed to physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
“Women who lose their husband or their parent in Syria, find themselves in an unfortunate situation, and institutions should think on how to help them return to Kosovo and continue their life,” said Burim Ramadani from Security Policy Research Center (SPRC), who also is into research about extremism.
According to journalist Arbana Xharra, majority of those who go to Syria and Iraq are forced to hand over all the documents they posses, and take other names, which makes their return to Kosovo impossible. Those who managed to return, have withheld any clues that would prove their citizenship.
Kosovo Center for Security Studies (KCSS) is preparing a research on women in Syria, to be released in January. One of the researchers in KCSS, Rudina Jakupi says that even though women are often influenced by their husbands, they should not always be positioned as victims.
“So far, not only in Kosovo, but also worldwide, women are positioned as victims, but a woman also can take the initiative to join the war and extreme groups,” says Rudina Jakupi.
She thinks that there are various reasons that push these women to go to Syria, but those reasons often do not differ from those of men. They may be motivated by socio-economic factors, ideology or some other individual reason such is the exclusion from society.
Sociologist Sibel Halimi also agrees that women are not always positioned as victims, very often they can be a very important instrument for further recruitment. She thinks that the category of women recruited from social networks is a category that has not been studied so much.
“We have figures of 43-44 women and girls that have been included, but these figures do not represent the real truth. For example, within these figures, women had certain positions and roles. They are mainly married women who followed their husbands but, on the other hand, there are girls who have been indoctrinated through social networks, because extreme groups have a very clear strategy how to work with all social categories. We have the case of two girls who were stopped at the border, with an intention to get to Syria, not necessarily to be involved directly as fighters,” says Halimi.
Unlike the women of the EU countries, those from the Balkans are not recruited as much through the Internet, considers Rudina Jakupi, since web sites, through which women are recruited, are in English and intended for a different audience, so they did not manage to attract many women. Videos in Albanian language for recruitment purposes may also be found on the Internet, though they show only men speaking.
Besa Ismaili, professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Prishtina, who has learned of women that have been mistreated there and complain about the worst abuses, also shows her sympathy for them.
“The majority, at least for those cases we have learned of, have accompanied their husbands, and have no direct relation with terrorism or violent extremism. However, this is not a fact that appeases us, but rather concerns us even more,” said Ismaili.
She maintains that there is no definite answer to whether these women willingly went there or were forced, as these issues are “closed” within the family. However, from what she has seen, she assumes that these women were not well informed about the situation there.
Based on the position of women in Kosovo society, in general which is characterized by economic interdependence and lack of decision-making, Burim Ramadani believes that it is quite evident that these women mainly fall prey to violent influence, and ideas by those already radicalized.
Jakupi from KCSS agrees, considering that in a pursuit of a longer-term solution, we as a society must deal with the position of women, and try to empower women both in economical and educational aspect.