Diana the Hunter: Lone Wolf Feminist Terrorism? 

Diana the Hunter: Lone Wolf Feminist Terrorism? 

By Lorelei Alverson; Image by This American Life

On August 28th, 2013, a middle-aged woman with dyed blonde hair and inconspicuous clothing boarded bus 718 in Juarez, Mexico. The woman, who would later write to the papers under the pseudonym “Diana the Hunter,” sat as a passenger for 15 minutes before releasing a lethal bullet into the head of the unsuspecting busdriver. Twenty four hours later, another busdriver would be the casualty of an eerily similar attack; this time, Diana once again hailed the bus and lingered towards the front as an unsuspecting passenger, before approaching the bus driver and spitting the words “you all think you’re so tough” into one ear, firing two sequential bullets into his head, and fleeing the scene unnoticed. Just one day later, the popular political gossip news website El Polaca received an anonymous email claiming culpability for the attack. The email read, 

“You think that because we are women, we are weak. And that may be true. But only up to a point. Because even though we have nobody to defend us and we have to work long hours until late into the night to earn a living for our families, we can no longer be silent in the face of these acts that enrage us. 

We were victims of sexual violence from bus drivers working the maquila night shifts here in Juarez. And although a lot of people know about the things we’ve suffered, nobody defends us nor does anything to protect us. 

That’s why I am an instrument that will take revenge for many women. For we are seen as weak, but in reality we are not. We are brave. 

And if we don’t get respect, we will earn that respect with our own hands. We, the women of Juarez, are strong

– Diana, Hunter of Bus Drivers” (Gowrinathan 2021). 

This was not the first act of brutal violence that the city of Juarez, Mexico had seen. In fact, women across the city were reconciling with a twenty year long history of disappearances, rapes, and brutal murder, which were primarily targeted towards young and vulnerable women. Schoolgirls, and women who worked in the Maquilas (foreign-owned sweatshops), would frequently go missing on their commutes home, only for their bodies to be discovered in deserts or abandoned lots, “often with traces of rape and torture” and sometimes even “found together in mass graves” (Glass 2013). In 2010, a peak of 304 women were murdered under these circumstances, as authorities continued to turn a blind- or potentially complicit- eye to the plight of Juarez’s women. Organizations including Amnesty International and Northern Border college reported as many as 400 killings of women in Juarez between 1993 and 2005, attributing those crimes to street gangs like “Los Rebeldes”, and to members of drug trafficking organizations, among others, but the killings show now signs of stopping, with the city recording 491 homicides against women in the past three years alone (Resendiz 2021). 

Angered families soon realized that attempts at justice were futile, as the legal system would either deny the problem, or blame the murders on the victims “lifestyle” choices. Government corruption speculations abounded, as authorities “mishandled and destroyed key evidence, such as clothing, fibers and fluids, and even the victims’ remains… ignored important leads” and “incorrectly identified victims, or failed to identify them at all” (Washington Office on Latin America, 2005). Where the authorities failed, the community stepped in; beginning in February 2002, volunteers began searching the sites where bodies were located by officials, and discovering new evidence, including clothing, hair, and shoes, all of which had been overlooked by police officials during their search. Authorities even attempted to pin the murders on two apprehended bus drivers in 2001, Victor Garcia Uribe and a colleague, who later admitted that “he only confessed because officers had kidnapped him, taken him to a police academy, and tortured him until he did” saying that “they’d beaten him and burned him with cigarettes”, claims which were later confirmed in 2005 when he was released (Glass 2013). 

Was Diana a terrorist? It’s difficult to locate a concise definition of terrorism in a field that has historically considered the term’s application to be politically motivated and inconsistently utilized. What definitions of terrorism have emerged typically agree on a few foundations, namely that “Terrorism is a [1] politically motivated [2] tactic involving the [3] threat or use of force or [4] violence in which the pursuit of [5] publicity plays a significant role” (Schmid 2004, 381). When we examine Diana’s act of lone-wolf violence against these qualifications, an argument for the designation of “terrorist” almost seems too easy; Diana’s letter directly stated her political motivation of taking “revenge for many women” against an unjust system, which had historically facilitated violence against women. Her tactic was not only violent, resulting in the murder of two bus drivers, but was symbolically violent in pursuit of a political cause. The bus drivers were sacrificed in order to generate publicity, stirring up fear, or “terror”, in those who had allowed historically unprecedented numbers of femicides to transpire. This desire for publicity was made abundantly clear when Diana released a statement to the press- a strategy which is common among “terrorist” actors- emphasizing the political nature of her cause. Moreover, Diana’s violent action was successful in achieving its mission; an interview of a local woman for the public radio program “This American Life” demonstrated both the effectiveness of Diana’s attack in inspiring fear, and it’s positive recipience among the women of Juarez;

“‘What makes me laugh…is how the bus drivers are so scared…Maria Alejandra says she’s seen bus drivers who posted a sketch of Diana near their dashboards. And when a woman who looks like her tries to board the bus, they don’t let her. She says they close the doors quickly now. And she’s heard that some are carrying knives on them’” (“Laura” qtd. in Glass 2013). 

A busdriver interviewed for The Guardian remarked that “We’re terrified…We’re frightened of our own shadow” (Tuckman 2013). Women’s responses were remarkably different, ranging from passive acceptance to active support. One woman who was interviewed for the same article replied that “‘With the police doing nothing and a society that doesn’t care, it is understandable that she took justice into her own hands’”, as another woman admired that “you’ve got to admit that that woman has guts” (Tuckman 2013). In an environment where women are regularly slaughtered for the crime of their gender, by a system that holds their murderers uncountable, it almost feels as if this desperate act of retribution is justifiable; that the real terrorists are the corrupt law enforcement officials and sexual predators who have racked up death tolls well into the hundreds. The dilemma of reconciling sympathetic motives with immoral violence adds credence to H.H.A. Cooper’s claim that “One person’s terrorist will ever remain another’s freedom fighter” (Cooper 882, 2001). And yet, if we are to examine Terrorism in terms of tactical utilization, Diana’s attack fits the bill, perhaps even better than prior incidents which have been slapped with the contentious label. Why has Security Studies turned a blind eye to one of the first ever documented acts of lone-wolf terrorism for a feminist cause? 

Women’s roles as terrorist actors have been a topic of in-depth exploration in the past decade, as security scholars began to address the existent, gendered gaps within the literature. Works such as Mia Bloom’s “Bombshell: Women and Terrorism”, Eileen MacDonald’s “Shoot the Women First”, and Paige Whaley Eager’s “From Freedom fighters to Terrorists: Women and Political Violence” have discussed the previously overlooked operational functions which women have served across nationalist, religious, and ideologically motivated terrorist organizations. Moreover, as research begins to acknowledge women’s potential for political violence, the number of politically violent women has simultaneously increased. “It may well be that we have achieved a perverse kind of equality in which women now constitute at least 50% of all suicide bombers” (Laster, Erez 2015, 86). Women have integrated themselves into movements as diverse as the Jihadist campaigns, left-wing underground Marxist movements, and right-wing nationalist campaigns; but what about violence on behalf of their own liberation? 

Perhaps the academic blindness towards Diana’s pioneering act of violence is a result of its unique political agenda. While women have been campaigning on behalf of gender-neutral causes for millennias, the notion of women operationalizing violence to combat gender inequality is a uniquely terrifying concept for a system which is predicated upon the monopolization of violence by both men and the state. In “Female Terrorism and Militancy: Agency, Utility, and Organization”, Cindy Ness describes female terrorism as a “double transgression” against the conventional social order, because violent women pose a challenge to both the logic of the state and the logic of the gender binary (Ness 2, 2008). This threat is exponentialized by Diana the Hunter, as her attack on the gender binary was not just an incidental byproduct of her gender, but directly related to her political vision. Whether out of indifference or ignorance, Diana’s attack has remained unexplored, and the attacker has remained in obscurity, with the incidents of 2013 fading into the background. The subject of terrorism, as it has been utilized as a tool by women and for women, has the potential to uncover new understandings of how gender interacts with non-state political violence. But, until these questions are asked, Diana’s story- and the histories of women like Diana- will go undiscovered.


Cooper, H.H.A. “Woman as Terrorist.” The Criminology of Deviant Women , 1979, pp. 150–157. 

“Crying out for Justice: Murders of Women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.” Latin America Working Group , Washington Office on Latin America , Mar. 2005,  www.wola.org/sites/default/files/downloadable/Mexico/past/crying_out_for_justice.pdf.

Glass, Ira. This American Life , Episode 506, Public Radio International , 4 Oct. 2013. 

Gowrinathan, Nimmi. Radicalizing Her : Why Women Choose Violence. Beacon Press, 2021. 

Laster, Kathy, and Edna Erez. “Sisters in Terrorism? Exploding Stereotypes.” Women and Criminal Justice, vol. 25, no. 1/2, 2015, pp. 83-99. HeinOnline. 

Ness, Cindy D. Female Terrorism and Militancy : Agency, Utility, and Organization. Routledge, 2008. 

Resendiz, Julian. Juarez Reports Nearly 500 Women Murdered in Past 3 Years, KXAN Austin, 31 Aug. 2021, www.kxan.com/border-report/juarez-reports-nearly-500-women-murdered-in-past-3-year s/. 

Schmid, Alex. Terrorism – The Definitional Problem, 36 Case W. Res. J. Int’l L, 2004. Tuckman, Jo. “Diana Huntress of Bus Drivers Instills Fear and Respect in Ciudad Juárez.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 6 Sept. 2013, www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/06/ciudad-juarez-bus-drivers-female-assassin-dia na.

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