Black Widows and Olympic Terror

black widow
As Russia prepares to host the 2014 Olympic winter games, the country has been hit by several terrorist attacks killing 34 and wounding many more in the town of Volgograd just outside of the “Olympic Perimeter” surrounding Sochi, the site of the upcoming games. On January 19th Russian authorizes received a video containing a message from two young men (presumably the bombers) claiming that the bombings in Volgograd were just an example of what would follow in Sochi. Soon after BlogSochi reported Ruzanna Ibragimova was being sought by Russian authorities as a possible suspected suicide bomber. here  Global media outlets were alight with images of the young woman and the history surrounding Chechnya’s Black Widows.

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Suspected suicide bomber Ruzanna Ibragimova. here.

The conflict between Russia and Chechnya dates back to the Caucasian War starting in the early 1800’s. While both sides of this conflict have sustained incredible damage from the ongoing conflict, the devastation to the caucus region has had severe economic and social repercussions that have left the region fractured and unstable. It is estimated that the Chechen rebels sustained a loss of two-thirds of their fighting forces during the first Chechen war, 500,000 displaced people, and around 30,000 civilian deaths.

As with many other secessionists movements, it is often the group vying for autonomy that is outnumbered and outgunned resulting in the adoption of “unorthodox” tactics.  For Chechnya, the significant loss of able-bodied men depleted the rebel’s access to traditional foot soldiers. Along with this loss to the traditional fighting forces, these deaths left a vast pool of individuals embittered and susceptible to recruitment into the various rebels groups.

Most notably, the female population, already vulnerable to the economic and social impact of a wartime environment, often suffered the loss of husbands and brothers to the fighting. It is from this pool of aggrieved that Chechen militants began recruiting and training female suicide bombers at the beginning of the millennium. These women are aptly referred to as the Black Widows, or Shahidka. The successful use of terrorism is often dependent on the ability to sensationalize the violent aftermath of this type of warfare. The use of young women as suicide bombers effectively enhances this impact across the board by further disabling the ability of these communities to rebuild and also attracting a wider global audience. The image of these young women enveloped in the hijab along with the rumor and rhetoric surrounding “Islamic terrorism” acts to heighten fear and expand the militant’s global audience.

From a policy perspective, it is not the use of females as human bombs but the expected outcome of the violence itself that we should be focusing on at this point. Putin is not one to back away from manipulating the terrorist threat to further strengthen Russian control over its outlying territories or former satellite countries. As for the Caucasus Emirates, their continued fight against Russian control of the caucuses is strengthened by the international hype surrounding the Volgograd bombings and the threat of violence during the games in Sochi. While the Russians have been claiming victory over the group following the alleged killing of the group’s founder and leader, Doku Umarov, Caucasus Emirates can only benefit from the heightened global attention centered on the region. 

– Sp403 contributor Jennifer Inglett

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