Female Fighters and Deadliness of Terrorist Campaigns in Civil War


We argue that rebel groups with a higher share of female fighters carry out more lethal terrorist operations using more female perpetrators. Rebels have incentives to exploit gender-specific tactical and propaganda advantages of their female operatives in terrorist operations to cause more damage to the opponents and to attract support. Gender stereotypes make female fighters more effective in terrorist operations, and common media narratives on female perpetrators discredit the government and allow rebels to shame men and encourage other female sympathizers to take up arms. We test this mechanism using casual mediation analysis against new data on the prevalence of female fighters in terrorist operations on a sample of 186 rebel groups fighting in civil wars. We find robust empirical evidence that rebels with a higher prevalence of female fighters employ a higher share of females in terrorist attacks leading to more lethal terrorist violence.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20398573v7n2p233

Keywords: Terrorism lethality; Civil war; Female fighters; Gender; Quantitative methods


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