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Women as Agents of Violence in Bangladesh—

The Perks of Being Wallflowers

Lailufar Yasmin*

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Violence is often seen as the domain of men—be that direct or indirect conflicts. Women are generally portrayed as passive actors in conflicts. Violent extremism—the definition of which is still agreed upon by experts—has rather opened up this debate on a much larger scale—regarding women’s ‘nature’—are women ‘peaceful’? In this article, I draw upon the involvement of women as violent extremists in Bangladesh and argue that the patriarchal ideas regarding women as passive actors and peaceful has driven a general lack of awareness regarding the true nature of women’s involvement in extremism in the country. Such understanding has rather discouraged wider research on the matter as well as under-exploration on the roots and causes of female extremism in Bangladesh. Therefore, this study aims to fulfil this lacuna that exists in understanding the nature of violent extremism holistically in the country. Additionally, understanding the nature of female extremism in Bangladesh shall contribute to a greater understanding of women’s involvement in Islamist extremism—if any distinctive features in Bangladesh are absent in the global pattern or conform to the global pattern. The study is based on a qualitative methodology that will involve both primary collections of data on female extremists as well as interviews of relevant stakeholders such as the members of the law enforcement agencies and experts in the area. The study uses the modifier in the title ‘Wallflowers’ to indicate that women’s issues are often left at the margins which enable extremists to influence and radicalize women. Also, while in Bangladesh, some studies and researches have taken place on identifying the root causes of extremism, these have seldom focused on the gender dimension. From that perspective, this article aims to fulfil the existing gap in understanding the nature of violent extremism in Bangladesh.

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