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All-Female Jihadi Group Delivers Guide To Life Under Islamic State

Smoke rises behind an Islamic State flag after a Nov. 24, 2014, battle with Iraqi security forces in Diyala province.
Smoke rises behind an Islamic State flag after a Nov. 24, 2014, battle with Iraqi security forces in Diyala province.

It is considered legitimate for a girl to be married at the age of 9, most "pure" girls will be married by 16 or 17, and there is no greater responsibility for a woman than being a wife to her husband.

Those are just some of the statements laid out in a manifesto published by female fighters of the so-called Islamic State.

The document, titled Women of the Islamic State: Manifesto and Case Study, paints an idyllic picture of life for women living in areas controlled by the militant group, where it says they are safe and that there's good medical care and education. The Islamic State swept through parts of Iraq and Syria last summer, killing thousands of people. The group is behind a string of kidnappings of westerners, carrying out gruesome beheadings and the immolation of a captured Jordanian pilot.

The treatise reportedly was put out by the al-Khanssaa Brigade, an all-female militia set up by the Islamic State, and posted on a jihadi forum in late January. It was written in Arabic but has now been translated into English by the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based anti-terrorism think tank.

It's not clear who exactly wrote the manifesto — no name is given — but it contains eyewitness accounts of life in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria. Both areas are held by the Islamic State.

The document is "first and foremost a piece of propaganda" aimed at recruitment, according to the Quilliam Foundation, which notes that the fact that the al-Khanssaa Brigade did not translate the document into English is telling — it was never intended for a Western audience. Instead, Quilliam says, the target audience is women in the Arabian Peninsula, particularly Saudi Arabia.

While the treatise may extol the serenity of life in Islamic State-held territory, it lays out stringent rules for women. It is preferable that women remain hidden and veiled, according to the document, which states that they may leave the house only under certain conditions: to study theology, if they are a doctor or a teacher, or if they have been called to fight. The manifesto denounces a Western lifestyle, saying it has moved people further from religion. It also rebuts concepts such as feminism, declaring that women gain nothing from the idea of equality with men. Fashion shops and beauty salons, it adds, are the work of the devil.

The document makes it clear that women must be educated and clearly lays out educational guidelines for girls. From ages 7 to 9, they should study religion, Quranic Arabic and science. From ages 10 to 12, girls should study Islamic laws on marriage and divorce, along with cooking and knitting. Girls 13 to 15 will focus on raising children.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.