People sometimes say that there are less women in politics because they are not as brave as men. The idea that women tend to choose a less risky future is completely contradicted even by terrorism, from the anarchism period to this day. The number of female terrorists in different forms is quite big. The expression and manifestation of their role changes throughout time: sometimes they remain in the shadows, while at other times they’re at the forefront of terrorist attacks. In this article you will learn about the 5 most famous female terrorists.
Vera Ivanovna Zasulich was a Russian revolutionary (also considered to be an anarchist) who shot and wounded the general Fiodor F. Trepov, governor of Saint-Petersburg. Vera’s trial (1878) is considered to be one of the most infamous and a milestone in the history of the Russian empire. The court declared Vera innocent. This trial showed two things: she had a brilliant lawyer and the government at the time turned out to be incompetent.
The daughter of noblemen who, according to society’s expectations, was set to become a spoiled woman with a careless life, became a revolutionary in 1868. She spent most of her life in jail, in exile or in hiding.
Now, let’s move on to the part that interests us the most: what did Vera Zasulich do as a terrorist and why.
In July 1877, Aleksei Bogolubov refused to take his hat off in front of the polkovnik Fiodor Trepov, the man who was famous for having stopped the Polish rebellion (1830-1863). Furious about the lack of respect, Trepov decided to take revenge and gave out the order for Bogolubov’s flogging. This was the last reason that reunited six revolutionaries around a table to plan Trepov’s murder; but Zasulich was the first to act. With her friend and fellow socialist revolutionary Maria (Masha) Kolenkina, she had been planning to murder to government representatives for a long time: one of them had to be Vladislav Zhelenovski, state attorney, and Trepov naturally made himself the second target when the first blow hit Aleksei. Kolenkina’s attempt to kill Zhelenovski failed, but that of Zasulich turned out to be successful - she used a British revolver “bulldog”, shot and badly wounded Trepov.
By the way, Vera was one of the first to admit that she was a terrorist.
Mairead Farell (1957-1988)
Born in Belfast, she received a quality education and became politically active in the 1970’s. After witnessing the brutal actions of the British forces in Northern Ireland, she joined the cumann na gcailini, later known as IRA (Irish Republican Army). On April 5th, 1976, with two other volunteers, she tried to place a bomb at a Belfast hotel. Farell was sentenced to 14 years in prison, out of which she only served 10.
As a sign of protest for being a political prisoner, she refused to accomplish prison tasks with other women and didn’t acknowledge the prison workers as authority. While in prison, she became the head of the IRA prisoners union.
During that time, waves of protest were also ceaseless in male prisons. When men attacked prison guards in Long Cash, women in the female colony were locked in their cells, even forbidden to use the bathroom, as there were fears that the same would happen there. Women went on a hunger strike. Mairead starved for 90 days with Mary Doyle and Mairead Nugen. Farrell perceived all this as steps towards liberating women: “I am being persecuted as a woman and as an Irish person…”
In the 1981 Irish Republic elections, Farrell was the only prisoner woman who presented herself as a candidate, with 2751 preliminary votes in the Cork North Central electoral district.
After coming out of prison, she was focused on her self-development and firmly believed in her goals.
In addition to everything else, she continued being a member of a terrorist organisation. She was planning and participating in IRA operations. However, the British SAS army men killed Mairead along with two other terrorists, unarmed, in 1988.
Ulrike Marie Meinhof (1939-1976)
Successful journalist, German beauty, mother of twins, leftist. Her political views pushed her to form the “Red Army Fraction” in West Germany, also known as the “Baader-Meinhof” terrorist organisation.
An active citizen since her student days, she started writing articles for konkret since the assasination of the SDS leader Rudy Dachka in 1968. There, her most famous words became known:
“Protest is when I say that I don’t like something.
Opposition is making sure that what I don’t like will never happen again.”
Her articles found her various acquaintances, including Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin. They were lawbreakers, activists and lovers. When Baader was arrested, Enslin got in touch with Ulrike to help get him out of prison. A scheme was in works, Ulrike was taking risky decisions and finally, with her help, Baader was out of prison. The German government established a 10 000 German mark award for bringing Ulrike to justice.
In the beginning, Meinhof was trying to stay behind the scenes, to use her power as a simple journalist, as that would be more helpful to the organisation. But after one important mistake (during an operation to arrest terrorists, she jumped out of the window with them, then called a friend to pick up children from school), it became clear that she too was a terrorist.
In the following two years, Meinhof has participated in a bank robbery and in a bombing. She and other members of the organisation tried kidnapping her own children to send them to an orphanage in Palestine, where they would be raised according to her wishes. She never stopped writing manifestos, the most famous of which is the “Concept of an urban partisan war”.
According to the official version, Ulrike ended her own life in a prison cell in 1976.
Lolita Lebron (1919-2010)
Lolita was a Puerto Rican nationalist who moved to New York in 1941. There, she joined the existing Puerto Rican Nationalist party and soon started influencing its leaders.
In the beginning of 1950’s, the party began a series of revolutionary activities. The main message of their terrorist acts was that Puerto Rico would no longer obey the US government.
In 1954, Lolita became the leader of the nationalist group that attacked the chamber of US representatives.
Lebron was found guilty of attempted murder and other crimes after she conducted an armed attack on the US Capitol in 1989 and badly wounded 5 members of Congress. President Carter gave pardon to Lolita in 1979.
Leila Khaled (born on April 4th, 1944)
Palestinian refugee and member of the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Leila attracted the world’s attention in 1969, when she stole the TWA Flight 80 airplane. It happened in parallel to the stealing of 3 other planes (known as the Dawson’s Field Hijackings). As it later became known, her and her team believed that Yitzhak Rabin, the ambassador of Israel to the US, was supposed to be on the plane, but it wasn’t the case. Leila also didn’t forget her personal sentiments during the operation: she said she ordered the pilot to fly over Haifa in order to see her birthplace.
Nowadays, Khaled is an active citizen, she is being invited to various conferences and meetings on the international arena. She is married to a physician, has two children and lives happily in Jordan.
Leila Khaled is the first woman in history who stole a plane. She then came out of prison during an exchange of civil hostages.
Several movies, installations and even songs have been dedicated to her. Among those, we can probably say for sure that the most original work is Amer Shomal’s “The Icon” - Leila’s portrait entirely created with lipstick.