From girls to women : are (minor) female foreign fighters child soldiers or jihadi terrorist brides? : a legal analysis of the United Kingdom’s and Austria’s state responses to this phenomenon
This thesis aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of a gendered perspective on the phenomenon of (former minor) foreign fighters who joined the so called Islamic State on an unprecedentedly large scale. In the recent years, political discourse in the public domain in Western Europe has generated great interest not only in the phenomenon on foreign fighters but also in the so called ‘jihadi brides’. This thesis provides historical and political backdrop on the general phenomenon of foreign fighters and the rise of the terrorist organisation ISIS in the context of the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. In concreto, the present paper provides an insight into the highly complex legal, sociological, and political issues of female children that flock to ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Drawing on the state practices and general western media coverage on those girls and young women, this thesis offers the theoretical framework within which to analyse how gender plays into counterterrorism strategies and how the gender and child-soldier perspectives are often overlooked. The legal (national and international) obligations of the respective states in relation to the contemporary phenomenon of foreign fighters are explored, and against this backdrop this thesis examines whether the actual states’ responses and practices are in accordance with said obligations. To this end, this thesis analyses the case studies of the former UK citizen Shamima Begum and the two Austrian citizens Sabina Selimovic and Samra Kesinovic. Finally, the paper probes various narratives argued from the general state (security) perspectives to address the issue of foreign fighters and ask whether there is a possible solution to the question of (prospective returning) foreign fighters.