Women and war in Lebanon: Non-state political violence, female combatants and organisational decision-making

By Jennifer Philippa Eggert
Submitted to Session P4681 (Socio-Political Developments in Lebanon, 2016 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
19th-21st Centuries; Arab-Israeli Conflict; Comparative; Gender/Women's Studies; Terrorism;
LCD Projector without Audio;
What role do women have in war and violent conflict? In public, political and media discourses it is often assumed that women are either victims of war or (potential) actors for peace. The fact that many women, too, play an active role in inciting violence, spreading hatred and inflicting damage tends to be overlooked. In academia, these notions of women as inherently peaceful, innocent and non-violent beings are reflected by a lack of literature on women as perpetrators of violence. Most publications on perpetrators of violence during war and political conflict do not take into account the role of women.

This lack of academic literature on the role of women in wars and violent conflicts stands in stark contrast to the participation of women in political violence worldwide and the fact that women’s participation in violent groups has been increasing in recent years. Some non-state violent political groups have a lot of active female members, including female fighters, while others have many less or none at all. How can we explain this variation?

This paper focuses on the case of non-state violent political parties and organisations involved in the Lebanese Civil War. Comparing groups which, at the beginning of the war, were part of the revisionist Lebanese National Movement and the pro-status-quo Lebanese Front, it aims at answering the question of why some of these groups had female fighters whereas others did not. After an analysis of existing conflict and terrorism studies literature on the topic, this paper will then provide an overview of existing explanations for female involvement in combat activities and examine the degree to which these can help us understand women’s participation during the Lebanese Civil War. With hardly any literature available on the role of women during the Lebanese Civil War, this research contributes to filling an important gap. It is based on several months of fieldwork carried out in Lebanon in 2015 and 2016, during which qualitative semi-structured interviews with former fighters and party members, researcher, journalists and civil society representatives and analysis of former fighters’ biographies were conducted.