Russia’s Black Widows

I am so bad at keeping up with the news during the summer time…but I’ll go into that in another post!

Image from the BBC News guide to violence in the North Caucasus region.

A student actually wrote this post back in late May after Russia experienced another attack by the Black Widows. Since they are an active group, responsible for many of Russia’s more high-profile terrorist incidents, I think it’s useful for people to learn more about this group.  This student put together a very good (but very brief!) overview of who the Black Widows are, with a number of references in case you want to learn more about them.

Dagestan and Chechnya are both semi-autonomous regions of Russia, with diverse populations.  The Muslim minority in Russia is predominately located in the North Caucus region, including Dagestan and Chechnya.

The religious diversity of the Caucasus region.

  The Muslim population is the majority group within Chechnya, and has led the fight for total independence from Russia.  While the Chechen war ended in 2009, violence has continued in the region: in Dagestan in 2012, a total of 405 people were killed and 290 injured as a result of armed conflict and terrorist attacks.  In May 2013, three attacks have occurred in Dagestan: two people were killed in an explosion on May 1, eight were killed after two car bombs exploded on May 20, and fifteen were killed in a suicide bombing on May 25.

In the most recent bombing, May 25th, the attacker was identified as Madina Aliyeva, a 25 year old widow of two Islamic militants; her first husband was killed in 2009 and her second in 2012 in separate conflicts with Russian security forces.  In the past decade, female suicide bombers have become more common in the North Caucus region.  These women, whose husbands have been killed in the conflicts with security forces, are known as “Black Widows.”  The first Black Widow was Khava Barayeva, who targeted a Russian military base in Chechnya in June 2000.

The Black Widows were responsible for the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings (Image from the Telegraph).

It is unclear if the Black Widows are a formal organization or a cultural phenomenon.  Some see the Black Widows as simply trying to avenge their husband’s death, others see them as being convinced that their husbands death was a punishment for their own sins and that suicide bombing is the only means to absolve their sins, and still others see the Black Widow bombers as being brainwashed and coerced by the separatist movement.  Since 2000, over two dozen women have carried out attacks on Russian targets, and all of the attackers have spouses or relatives linked to the Islamic insurgency in Dagestan and Chechnya.



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