This coming Monday evening, August 3rd, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a programme titled “Women of Terror“. Its synopsis reads as follows:
“From Russia’s 19th century Nihilists to contemporary Sri Lanka and Palestine women have played central roles in terrorist organisations. Attacks planned or executed by women attract attention and inspire fear in a way that male terrorists can only dream of.
Why are we still shocked by female terrorists? Why are they so effective? How can women be dissuaded from joining terrorist organisations? BBC Diplomatic Correspondent, Bridget Kendall investigates the motives that drive women to kill and considers the response of the media and the public to those who have planted bombs, hijacked planes and killed innocents in their quest for political change.”
The claim that the programme “considers the response of the media […] to those who have planted bombs, hijacked planes and killed innocents…” is particularly interesting given the images selected to illustrate both its webpage and an accompanying promotional article by Bridget Kendall which appeared on the BBC News website on July 28th under the title “What drives women to terrorist acts?“.
Of course BBC audiences are no strangers to those photos of PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled seeing as they have been used in prior BBC content – and not infrequently with linkage to the word ‘icon’ or ‘iconic’ – as seen in the caption to the photograph heading Kendall’s article: “Leila Khaled in iconic pose”. In the body of the article readers are told:
“Leila Khaled was probably the most famous female hijacker in the world in the late 1960s – beautiful, dangerous and politically committed to doing whatever might further the Palestinian cause.
She featured in an iconic photo – sultry-eyed, a Kalashnikov at her side, headscarf carefully draped over her head.” [emphasis added]
Kendall’s 1,277 word article has two hundred and twenty-six words devoted to Khaled alone and the only one of the female terrorists she mentions who is deemed worthy of an insert carrying a further 140 words of biography is Leila Khaled.
As recently as last December another BBC Radio 4 programme also purported to examine “how media organisations tread the fine line of giving publicity to terrorists and reporting the news” but was plagued by accuracy and impartiality issues in its portrayal of Leila Khaled’s organisation’s Dawson’s Field hijackings.
It remains to be seen whether Bridget Kendall’s efforts will be any more successful but her promo article’s romanticised embellishment of the Khaled ‘icon’ does not bode well.