Repository logo

A gendered approach to migration through the prism of human trafficking in armed conflicts for terrorism: the women of the Islamic State.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The 2012 Syrian war is a major contributory factor in the growing relationship between terrorism and human-trafficking, as practiced by extremist group known as the Islamic State (IS). Terrorism and human-trafficking are known to thrive as individual criminal platforms that play out as weapons of warfare in armed conflicts. However, this study identified a literature gap which prompted an inquiry into how these two platforms mutually interconnect in armed conflicts. This study particularly employed a gendered approach to understanding the roles of women in building the relationship between human trafficking and terrorism in highly patriarchal and religiously defined conflict terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State. Three interrelated theories underpinned this study. The theories include the “push and pull theory” of migration, the failed state theory, and the feminist theory, further covered by religiously defined feminist movements such as Islamic feminism and contextually to IS, jihad (i) feminism. The above theories interconnect to explain the outplays of power relations present in conflict-based terrorism in the Syrian war and IS, that has narrated the participation of women in migratory affiliated human-trafficking practices executed for purposes of terrorism. The results in this study demonstrated that the Syrian war has stood as a pivotal instrument in the institutionalising of terrorism in the country and its intensive evolution to recent practices of pseudo-state building trajectories carried out by IS. The study found that with counterterrorism trajectories quickly taking shape in the Syrian war, terrorist groups such as the IS also readapted to avoid annihilation. This caused IS to use more women as strategic frontline actors to ensure the organisation’s survival. Women quickly became frontline, cum, sedentary actors used by IS to interject criminal platforms such as human-trafficking to aid the organisation recruit agents, generate revenue and sustain the organisation’s survival and state-building initiatives amidst counterterrorism initiatives taking place in Syria. From these results, the study recommends that for groups such as IS to be conquered, counterterrorist initiatives should encompass holistic approaches that are both gendered and criminally inclusive, so that they can yield more effective results that accommodate the evolving practices of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.