The fourth and latest installment in journalist Jill Carroll's 11-part series detailing her kidnapping in Iraq offers a cheerless view of the lives of women married to insurgents. (Parts 1, 2 and 3 are also must-reads.) These women clearly burn with just as much extremist vitriol as their male counterparts, but their actual role is purely foundational.
The most lucid display of the women's second-tier status comes when, after preparing a lavish meal, they wait to eat until the men have finished: "The dinner platters returned, with the food ravaged: rice everywhere, bones with the chicken chewed off, nothing left but scraps," Carroll writes. "And the women sat and began to eat the scraps." For the three months that she was held hostage, Carroll partook in this "communal stew," while curiously enmeshed in the insurgents' family life.
One evening, Abu Ali, one of Carroll's captors, announces proudly that his wife, Um Ali, wants to be a martyr; his brimming pride even causes her to blush. "She wants to drive a car bomb!" he tells Carroll. The perplexing catch is that the four-months-pregnant Um Ali would have to wait until she'd given birth to execute her plan. Her husband explained that "it is forbidden in Islam to kill a fetus at that age"; their particular interpretation of Islam apparently finds no harm in allowing that soon-to-be-born child, along with its numerous siblings, to grow up motherless.
But until this singular and final blaze of glory, the women are expected to support the men's triumphs by dropping out of school at age 12 and devoting themselves to homemaking. "I later was told that this was the only way women could be part of the mujahedeen," Carroll writes. "The men could have the glory of fighting in battle. Women got to blow themselves up."