Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Indonesian Women and Terrorism: An Analysis of Historical and Contemporary Trends

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Abstract:  From 2016 to 2021, women attempted to or perpetrated suicide attacks in Indonesia. These attacks were committed by them as individuals or in family units, who were affiliated to the Islamic State. These incidents marked the first occurrence of suicide attacks carried out by women in Indonesia. Current scholarship and policy analysis of female terrorism attributed to the Islamic State or proxy groups is still catching up with the implications of trends emerging from women’s actions as suicide attackers in Indonesia and worldwide. Primarily, scholarly and policy analyses of female terrorism focus on the individual woman engaged in violence, whereas women who support terrorist groups—as ideologues, wives, and online activists—are given a secondary analytical focus. This creates conceptual limitations in understanding women’s pathways to violence, which can encompass violent and supportive roles within the social world in which they operate. Using Indonesia as a case study, this article advances a framework to account for the mobilisation of different identities to commit violence across personal and political linkages. In examining historical and current developments in Indonesia, this article illustrates that women as supporters or actors of violence, while largely conforming to traditional gender ideology and roles, are driven by both personal and political considerations.

Keywords:  female terrorism; gender; Indonesia; Islamic State; suicide attacks; terrorism



© Kate Macfarlane. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.