On February 5, the OU Center for Peace and Development hosted a discussion called “Women, Human Rights and Insecurity in Conflict and Post-Conflict Zones” where Dr. Izabela Steflija spoke on her book about women as war criminals. Women have received very little attention when looking at post-conflict zones and especially in peace talks.
What I found interesting was the fact that the topic has been almost entirely avoided. Drawing attention on women war’s crimes brings attention that many people do not want to see. Women can be complex political actors and when ignoring them, you are not recognizing the significance of women and basically the equality of women to men. Something I found interesting was the fact that Dr. Steflija noted that most women if they acted in violence were because of men. Everything appeared to be because of men and was caused by men, therefore once again making women the minority of the conversation. One example is that women who join ISIS are called jihadi brides. These women are immediately being associated with men and not being associated with ISIS because of their beliefs.
It seems ironic that these women join terrorist organizations for their own beliefs but use this idea of being a bride as defense in court. How can one stand for equality and the right to believe what they want but the minute that they are being punished, back out?
When I first watched this discussion, I thought that the topic would be focusing on how women exhibit their agency following post-war conflict, but it focused more on women who were part of these war crimes and how they instead defended themselves following the conflicts. It was interesting to me to see women at the head of leading genocide and racist movements and while it was not the kind of equality discussion I was expecting, it did show me that women are in fact able to lead such horrific movements.