In December 2016, Indonesian authorities arrested Dian Yulia Novi for planning a suicide bomb attack on the presidential palace. Shortly after, Ika Puspitasari was arrested for planning a suicide bomb attack on the resort island of Bali. Both were female migrant workers who were radicalized while they were working abroad. Both were planning the suicide bomb attacks with husbands that they had met and married online.
Pulitzer Center grantee and 2014 Miel Fellow Ana P. Santos reported from across several parts of Indonesia to uncover the stories of women like Ika and Dian—female migrant workers dealing with loneliness and isolation and looking for a sense of purpose.
What happens when a woman looking for companionship or love online instead finds jihad?
Trying to find answers to her questions brought Santos all over Indonesia where she also uncovered stories of former jihadists, children of suicide bombers, and survivors of terrorist attacks. Their lived experiences tell the story of Indonesia, a country that is still healing from a series of terror attacks since the 2002 Bali bombing and coping with life after jihad.
Santos’s home country, the Philippines, has close terrorist links with Indonesia.
In 2017, the southern Philippine city of Marawi was laid siege by ISIS-affiliated terror groups. In a months-long investigation, Santos and a team of reporters from Rappler discover that the Marawi siege and the establishment of the Philippines as the eastern province of ISIS was led by men who headed militant troops, but it was the women who held down the fort.
In the Philippines, the emerging face of the radicalized extremist is female.