Cover image for Army of roses : inside the world of Palestinian women suicide bombers
Army of roses : inside the world of Palestinian women suicide bombers
Victor, Barbara.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[Emmaus, Pa.?] : Rodale, [2003]

Physical Description:
xii, 300 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV6433.I75 V53 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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When Yasser Arafat in January 2002 called on Palestinian women--his "army of roses"--to join in the struggle against Israeli occupation, even he was surprised by their swift and devastating response. Later that same day, Wafa Idris would become the first female suicide bomber of the Intifada. Tragically, she wasn't the last. In Army of Roses , Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Barbara Victor profiles Wafa Idris and the other young women who have followed her violent lead toward a martyr's Paradise paved with personal desperation and deadly political maneuvering.

In this astonishing exposé of the political and cultural forces now pressing Palestinian women into martyrdom, investigative journalist Victor identifies what she calls "a new level of cynicism" that has destroyed normal, everyday existence in the Middle East, along with the possibility for lasting peace. Tracing the roots of the women's resistance movement back to so-called personal initiative attacks and a brief period of empowerment in the 1980s before religious leaders clamped down, Victor shows how the current generation of Palestinian women has been courted and cajoled into committing these self-destructive and murderous acts.

By presenting the intimate personal histories of the first five female bombers who have succeeded in blowing themselves up, as well as the troubling stories of some of those who've tried and failed, the author reveals not only the crushing poverty and religious zealotry that one might suspect as motivating factors in their fall, but also a startling emotional component to their death wishes: their broken dreams and blighted inner lives. Victor shows, without dismissing or diminishing the horror of their actions, how far a person can be pushed when she is convinced she has nothing to lose.

Author Notes

Barbara Victor has covered the Middle East for CBS Television and U.S. News and World Report. She was a contributing editor to Elle USA, Femme magazine, Madame Figaro , and Elle France, and is the author of A Voice of Reason , a biography of Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; Getting Away with Murder, which called for a change in laws concerning domestic violence; and The Lady , a biography of Burmese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. A frequent lecturer on women's issues as well as on the Middle East, Victor divides her time between New York and Paris.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Suicide bomber is a term with which we have all become a little too familiar. The conflict between Palestine and Israel is punctuated by reports of these political martyrs, but in January 2001, there was an evolution in suicide bombing. Wafa Idris, a Palestinian woman, blew herself up in a Jerusalem shopping mall. Suddenly, suicide bombing had become an equal-opportunity endeavor, and more and more women joined the ranks. The author explores this new breed of political martyr through interviews with the families of four female suicide bombers and with several other women who tried and failed to give their lives for Allah. She reveals that female suicide bombers are quite different from their male counterparts. They tend to be outcasts within their heavily male-dominated society, trained to be killers by a government that promises them that in the afterlife they will find the happiness and equality they are denied in this life. It is an unsettling book, one that casts the Arab-Israeli conflict in a horrific new light. --David Pitt Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Victor, a journalist with over 20 years' experience in the Middle East, delivers a jarring and intimate indictment of Palestinian society. The two primary crimes she charges it with are the exploitation of women and the desperate acceptance of a "culture of death." On January 27, 2002, these two factors began to overlap as Wafa Idris became the first female Palestinian suicide bomber. Victor (A Voice of Reason: Hanan Ashrawi and Peace in the Middle East) spent the next year interviewing leaders, historians, victims, psychiatrists and feminists on both sides of the Green Line. The most poignant passages come from the families of bombers-parents and siblings vacillating between grief and celebration. While she concludes that there are many ingredients in the "fatal cocktail" of suicide bombing-religious extremism, socioeconomic deprivation, nationalistic fervor and Israeli occupation-the book reserves its harshest criticism for manipulative male relatives who convince vulnerable and marginalized women to blow themselves up, and for opportunistic leaders-including Yasir Arafat-who encourage and reward such behavior. Victor is well versed in the intricacies of Palestinian politics and emotions, and her attempt to communicate her knowledge to the reader is-perhaps inevitably, given the complexity of the subject-a bit rambling, but ultimately convincing that a "misguided feminism" underlies actions like Idris's attempt to seek equality in death. Only hardened partisans (who may outnumber neutral observers, given the polarizing nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) will fail to accompany Victor on her journey from compassion to judgment. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A journalist and celebrity biographer, Victor tells the story of four female Palestinian suicide bombers whom she believes represent the new liberated women of Palestine. The irony of the situation, however, weakens her point: those women require permission from their patriarchal society in order to become examples of this new liberation. In certain sections, the author attempts to name religion and the exploitation of women as motivating factors behind suicide bombing, leaving much to be desired. Such factors occur beyond Palestinian borders, and one does not see other Muslim or exploited women strapping on explosives to claim their liberty. Victor's journalistic style is more typical of media reporting than serious, scientific research. Her book reads like a news report-full of observations that leave one with more questions than answers. An optional purchase for public and general interest libraries.-Ethan P. Pullman, Univ. of Pittsburgh Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.