While al Qaeda is generally not considered "woman friendly," the male-dominated terrorist organization has, unwittingly, created a growing number of Islamic radical feminists who demand to be allowed to join the fight. There has been an increase in women volunteering to be suicide bombers. But many more women want to be involved in all aspects of planning and carrying out Islamic terrorist violence. On the Internet you can find messages from these female terrorist wannabes, citing verses from the Koran and snippets of Islamic history to justify their right to participate in the killing. In areas where many suicide bombers are recruited, mothers are encouraged to enthusiastically give up their sons for the cause. Some moms really get into it while others just go along, fearful of retribution if they display any reluctance to seeing their kids blown up. But the key to using women in terrorist operations was to first find women who could lead these female terrorist cells. Conservative Moslems (like al Qaeda) do not approve of women working in close proximity to men they are not related to and opposed women in management positions.
Four years ago the Iraqi Islamic terrorists were losing in a big way, that led to some new terrorist cells led by women. The new women suicide bomber cells turned to recruiting women because the supply of foreign male volunteers had dried up. This was the result of attacks on the smuggling operation that brought people across the Syrian border and fewer foreigners willing to volunteer for missions that, as everyone in the Arab world finally knew, mainly killed innocent Moslem civilians. Security forces had also shut down most of the workshops that fitted cars with explosives. Then there was the growing shortage of explosives, as more and more weapons caches were found and destroyed. Finally, there was the problem of increased security, most of it now supplied by Iraqi troops and police. In short, it was more difficult to get a suicide car bomb to a target. Women, even if carrying a small bomb underneath their burqa, had an easier time getting through security.
The terror cell leaders used a network of recruiters, many of them clergy, to seek out distraught widows and female orphans (some as young as 12 or 13) to make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause (or just for revenge). The tragedy has been compounded by the selection of hospitals as targets. These attacks are seen as a severe blow to government morale, although the result has been increased efforts to hunt down the members of the women's suicide bomber cell.
It’s more common to find women aiding terrorists by carrying messages between the increasingly isolated insurgent cells and to collect intelligence. But when the supply of male volunteers declines it becomes common for women to be recruited for suicide operations. This has happened elsewhere (Israel and Chechnya) where the women were often relatives of men who had been killed by the enemy (conducting suicide attacks or otherwise). Sometimes the women are willing to carry out a suicide attack because of this, but often the women are coerced. A widow does not have a lot of options in Iraq or the Middle East in general.