YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY KILLER
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- As a feminist I'm all for equal opportunity, but the idea of female suicide death squads makes me shiver.
The whole world has been shocked by the slaughter of innocents at Beslan. Blowing up a school full of mothers and children? Who could do such a thing? And for what possible reason?
Now we learn that the attack was led by a Chechnyan woman, part of a group called the Black Widows. These women drape themselves from head to toe in black, veil their faces, line their eyes with kohl, and strap explosives - the infamous "martyr's belt" - around their waists. Then they kill.
Hamid Mir, a Pakistani journalist, filed this report a few days ago: "Another source said the name of the woman leading the Beslan operation was Khaula Nazirov, a 45-year-old widow from Grozny, the Chechen capital. Her 18-year-old son, 16-year-old daughter, and some other relatives were also part of the operation. They attacked the school because Nazirov's husband was tortured to death in a Russian military camp five years ago, while some of her children's cousins were killed when Russian troops bombed a school in Chechnya some years ago.
"We were told by some Chechnyans in Moscow that most of the Black Widows are not very well educated, have little knowledge of Islam, and don't know that killing innocents in the name of Islam is forbidden. These widows are simply looking for revenge."
The Black Widows were first seen during the hostage-taking last October in a Moscow theater. Last month, one killed at least 17 people in Chechnya when she threw herself under a bus carrying members of the Russian military. Two of them, long-time friends, are suspected of being responsible for the two Russian planes that blew up a few weeks ago. That was just about the time two others killed themselves and 14 people at a Russian rock concert (after trying to get into the concert, where 20,000 people were enjoying the music).
When I was growing up, women were "the gentler sex." When we married, we vowed to "love, honor and obey." We were trained to be relatively helpless - for example, my recently- widowed mother is just now learning how to pump gas, handle her own banking and put batteries in a portable radio.
Despite World War II, a time when women flooded into the workforce and proved they could do any job as well as a man, we were still considered "the weaker sex." We had not really come a long way, baby, since Shakespeare had Katharina in "The Taming of the Shrew" say, "Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth/Unapt to toil and trouble in the world/But that our soft conditions and our hearts/Should well agree with our external parts?"
It has taken an entire lifetime and Title IX to change the image of women in America to one of strength, competence and confidence. And if the Republicans have their way, women will be pushed back into the kitchen as soon as they can figure out a way to call it something else. "No woman left behind," maybe?
But along with the freedom to become a fully realized person comes the freedom to be just as big a jerk as any man might be. Female violence in America - from girl gangs to serial killer Aileen Wuornos - isn't even news any more; it's an Academy Award -winning performance. And God help us all about Lynndie Englund, now on trial because of some snapshots she posed for at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Two years ago, I pondered over the story of a 30-year-old, college-educated Palestinian woman who talked to U.S.AToday reporter Gregg Zoroya about her decision to become a suicide bomber. Beyond the violence of the fighting, she said, the daily humiliation of Palestinians by Israelis had left her with a smoldering hatred.
"About the explosive belt," she told Zoroya, "when you want to carry out such an attack, whether you are a man or a woman, you don't think about the explosive belt or about your body being ripped into pieces. We are suffering. We are dying while we are still alive."
In April, a New York Times photo showed a march by a group of burqa-clad Iraqi women, members of a Shiite militia. They were ready to fight against the American occupation. And now we have the Black Widows. You know things are going to hell when the women take up arms.
But when your family has been killed, your house and everything in it has been destroyed, whatever livelihood you had has disappeared, and you are cursed with living under an occupying force - it is the very formula for making terrorists. It works in the West Bank, it works in Sadr City in Baghdad, it works in Kabul. Genocide is never pretty.
Women can be as passionate as men when it comes to their family, their tribe and their country. Obviously, they are as brave, or braver, than anyone ever thought possible. They can hate as deeply as men. They can kill as easily as men. They can be as crazed - and as crazy - as men.
The Chechnyan national anthem says, "Never we'll appear submissive before anybody. Death or Freedom - we can only choose one way. Our sisters cure our wounds with their songs. The eyes of our beloved raise us to feats of arms...Nation, Native Land and God - we serve them only."
This is an anthem written by men for men, but the sisters are no longer singing and curing wounds. While Americans are still dithering about women in the military, Chechnyan women are blowing themselves up and taking other people's children with them.
At least one thing is clear: making more war - Iran, Syria, or whatever country is next on George Bush's list - is not the answer. War breeds more war, whether the strongman bastard waging it is Bush or Russian president Vladimir Putin. And war breeds hatred, resistance and revenge. It makes killing part of the human, not the masculine, condition.
In Ireland during the height of the civil war, women didn't blow themselves up, they marched for peace. Borrowing again from Katharina the Shrew's speech: "I am ashamed that women are so simple/To offer war where they should kneel for peace." And forget about the kneeling. Those of us who are outraged by Beslan should be fighting - and voting - for peace across the board and across the world.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture,
politics, economics and travel.