Female Shahida Martyr

The first law of motion is that bodies in motion stay in motion and bodies at rest stay at rest, unless acted upon by a force. Isaac Newton, Principia

When she lost the long-awaited baby she was devastated. Then the hospital staff told her, in the presence of her husband, that she would never be able to carry a baby to full term and live birth. She did not see a specialist. She went into mourning, unable to get out of bed and perform her wifely duties. She couldn't clean or cook or even get dressed. Her husband consulted her older brother, the custom when the wife's father had died, as men are totally responsible for women in Palestinian society. He also consulted the imam, who counseled him on disobedient wives and helped Ahmed determine the extent of this disobedience. His family exerted much pressure on him, openly suggesting that he was not man enough to implant a baby in her womb. After a year, he divorced her as he could no longer take the social pressure. She knew that he would have to do this. He offered to make her his second wife, but she went home instead. Home was the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah in a crowded household with her widowed mother, one brother (the other was in prison), their wives and small children. Her brother could not work due to the curfew and money was tight. She could not run away, the disgrace to her family would have been even greater. She would never be able to marry again as she was sterile. She was twenty six years old and her life was over. She watched Ahmed's wedding procession from her bedroom window. Within a year, Ahmed and his wife had a child, and a second child the next year. After the children were born, Idris wanted to return to Ahmed, but his wife was against it.

She became a volunteer for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, volunteering for ambulance runs to pick up the wounded from the fighting and bombing. When things were bad, when there were many casualties, she sometimes worked several days in a row. She saw terrible things.

On January 27, 2002, Yasser Arafat spoke to over one thousand Palestinian women in Ramallah. He proclaimed that women and men are equal and that "You are my army of roses that will crush Israeli tanks... Shahida all the way to Jerusalem...You are the hope of Palestine. You will liberate your husbands, fathers, and sons from oppression. You will sacrifice the way you, women, have always sacrificed for your family." (Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers by Barbara Victor, Rodale, distributed by St. Martin's Press)

Eyewitnesses to suicide bombers attest to a wet red mist, flying steel, a very loud noise followed by the screams of the wounded. Of all of these, the wet red mist from the dissolved body of the suicide bomber is the worst. The red mist, a wet red mist, is dispersed through the air, clings to near-by surfaces, and dries to a dark redbrown.

Salon.com, Ferry Biedermann, Jan. 31, 2002, Jerusalem

"I saw the head of a girl with long black hair lying in the street," said Aaron Pinsker, still trembling hours after an explosion last Sunday killed one Israeli and wounded scores of others. "I didn't recognize it at first. I thought it was a chicken or some animal, but when I looked closer it was clearly a girl. The body I couldn't see anywhere, though." Pinsker, the owner of Pinsker Furniture on Jaffa Road, looked once more at the damage caused by the blast, and murmured again: "A girl."

The "girl" was 27-year-old Wafa Idris. She became the first shahida in the afternoon of January 27, 2002, hours after Yasser Arafat called for women to become suicide bombers. Idris was active in the Fatah movement, a volunteer paramedic in the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and a divorcee. Her family mourns her still. Her brother, Khalil Idris, spoke of the terrible things she saw in the Red Crescent. "...the body parts, the children who were shot, the pregnant women who lost their babies at Israeli checkpoints..." Hossam Sharkawi, the coordinator of Emergency Response Services sys "It is appalling, it goes against all our principles. We oppose all killings of civilians, we are here to save lives, Palestinians and Israelis equally."

Wafa Idris detonated a 22-pound body bomb filled with nails and metal objects. She killed an 81-year-old man and injured more than 100 people.

Israeli policy dictates that suicide bombers are buried in unmarked graves and that the bodies are not returned to their families. The family home is bulldozed.

Hamas gives the families of suicide bombers money, $400 a month for men, $200 a month for women. Sometimes families are given one-time payments of $25,000.

Wafa Idris is in Paradise, sitting at Allah's table and will live forever. When Palestinian girls become fifteen they can join the Women for Wafa Idris Martyr's Brigade, a division of the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, the military arm of Fatah, and prepare to become shahida and wear the belt bomb in emulation of their idol.


As a contemporary ars moriendi, this book deals with death, specifically the first Palestinian female bomber, Wafa Idris. It is an attempt to understand why a young woman would strap a belt bomb over her womb and set if off in a public place where victims could be children, elderly or pregnant women. Yasser Arafat, who exhorted women to die for the liberation of Palestine, died during the printing of this book.

Suicide bombers are currently the weapon of choice for terrorist organizations. They are low-cost, use unsophisticated technology, are readily available, require little training and strike fear into the hearts of the population. Women have an added advantage, as in the Muslim world they are searched gingerly. world-wide, women are perceived as non-violent, adding an element of surprise. Suicide bombers attain extensive media coverage for their organizations as casualties are often high. Media coverage is a good recruitment tool and furthers political agenda.

The papers used in the three volumes are Root River Mill cotton, Larroque and Hahnemuhle. The Hahnemuhle was gelatin sized (with pigment added-in). The collaboration between two printers, perhaps a dubious undertaking, came out of Walter Hamady's 1983 letterpress class. Thank you, Walter.

Caren Heft, Arcadian Press, 2004