A message purporting to be from Russian-speaking women with the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and calling for other women to join them has been shared on social media.
The message was shared on the VKontakte social network by an IS supporter calling himself Abu Dudjana and is signed “your sisters from Islamic State.”
In calling on Russian-speaking Muslim women to come to Syria, the message employs two religious ideological concepts — hijra and jihad — that are used by IS to give justification for why foreign Muslims should come to fight in the Middle East.
“Hijra,” an Arabic term meaning “emigration,” has its roots in the Islamic Prophet Muhammad’s migration with his followers to Mecca in 622 CE. The physical and spiritual concept of hijra was co-opted by proponents of global jihad: Osama bin Laden called on Muslims to engage in hijra and described his followers as if they were reenacting Muhammad’s journey to Mecca.
“Jihad,” the Arabic term meaning struggle, is used by IS to mean a military struggle or holy war.
“We are addressing you from the blessed land of Sham,” the message begins, using the historic name for the province of Syria under the early Islamic caliphates, a term often employed by IS and other militants to refer to Syria.
The authors of the message say that they are calling on their “Muslim sisters in the lands of the infidels” to undertake hijra “because the state in which you now find yourselves is a state of humiliation and shame.”
Russian-speaking Muslim women are being oppressed by their non-Muslim governments, who forbid them from practicing Islam properly, the “sisters from Islamic State” argue.
“Every step you take is monitored, and once you go beyond what the kuffar [infidels] have allotted you in terms of practicing religion, you are immediately driven back,” the message says.
The authors of the message compare this situation with that in IS-controlled lands, where non-Muslims are forced to pay a tax known as “jizya” to their Muslim rulers.
“At a time when the infidels should be humbly begging you to accept their jizya, you yourselves voluntarily belong to them as property, which they then use to fight Islam. You work for the infidels, receiving a salary from them, the amount of which depends on how much you deny your religion. You pay for teachers, so they can teach your children to be infidels,” the message says.
However, the “sisters from Islamic State” say, Russian-speaking Muslim women have a choice to relocate to Syria, and live under IS rule.
‘Hijra Is A Religious Duty’
Beyond the arguments that Russian-speaking Muslims should move to Syria to avoid oppression, the “sisters from Islamic State” say that Muslim women in “infidel lands” are under a religious duty to do so.
“And there is nothing that could result in this being postponed. Neither the existence of debts or obligations, neither your parents nor your property or work — nothing should deter you from resettlement…. Understand, sisters, this is your religion and there is nothing more important in this world,” the message insists.
‘Come To Syria, Marry A Militant’
If avoiding oppression and fulfilling religious duty were not enough, the “sisters from Islamic State” offer Russian-speaking Muslims one more inducement — the possibility of marrying a nice, God-fearing militant.
For those women already have husbands who refuse to go to Syria, the solution is simple — they should leave their husbands behind and get new ones in the Middle East.
“Encourage your husbands, and if they turn away, then dump them without hesitation and move yourselves. Allah will give you, inshallah [God willing] mujahideen [militants] as husbands, who are God-fearing and sincere,” the “sisters from Islamic State” say.
In stressing the importance of hijra to Islam, the “sisters from Islamic State” hark back, as Osama bin Ladin did before them, to the example of the Prophet Muhammad and his journey to Mecca.
“Hijra was not easy for the Messenger of Allah [Muhammad]. It was a risk, and that risk is still here today. So let your main reserve be piety, sister. After all, if you fear God and trust in Him, He will find a way for you,” the message says.
‘Come To Syria, Make History’
Those women who come to Syria as instructed will be part of an exciting historical movement, and will have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the early Muslims who joined the Prophet Muhammad, according to the “sisters from Islamic State.”
“This is the land where important events in Islam will occur. And you have the chance to get involved and be part of it. Become like the Companions [the early Muslims who accompanied Muhammad], those great women who were part of that generation, when Islam had only just been affirmed,” the message says.
The messages given to Russian-speaking Muslim women by the “sisters from Islamic State” echo those given by other IS militants.
The call for Western Muslims to leave their homelands and join IS in Syria and Iraq has been a common theme in recent propaganda videos.
A November video titled What Are You Waiting For? featured a group of French militants who, like the “sisters in Syria” said that French Muslims had no excuse for not making hijra and coming to Syria.
The French militants also argue that Muslims in France are oppressed by their non-Muslim governments, saying that France has imposed laws on them.
IS has also targeted women, including Western women, as recruits.
A recent report by the British-based think tank Strategic Dialogue examining the motivations behind Western women’s recruitment to IS found that women felt Muslims were being oppressed, and that there was a larger war on Islam being waged by “infidel” — both arguments made by the “sisters from Islamic State” in their call for Russian-speaking women to come to Syria.