The term of "Black Widows" probably originates from the fact that many of these women are widows of men killed by the Russian forces in Chechnya. (The connotation of black widow spider is intended.) In 2003, the Russian journalist Julia Jusik coined the phrase "Brides of Allah" (Невесты Аллаха) when she described the process by which Chechen women were recruited by Basayev and his associates; the phrase was also used again after the Beslan attack, as the title of an installment of the Russian NTV programme Top Secret (Совершенно секретно).
There have been claims that many of the women have been sold by their parents to be used as shahidkas, others have been kidnapped or tricked. She also claims that many have been prepared for the suicide by way of narcotics and rape. Several were pregnant at the time. Independent journalists like Robert W. Kurz and Charles K. Bartles reject this view, stating that in most cases female Chechen suicide bombers do not fit this model. Mostly they are given no training at all in preparation for the suicides as no weapon skill is needed to strap on the explosives. Many do not even blow themselves up, but are blown up by remote control. On the other hand, Besayev, as stated above, reported that the women are trained for their mission. Michael Radu argued that these women are specifically trained for suicide attacks. Additionally, some black widows have brothers or close relatives who were killed in one of the two Chechen wars between Russia and Islamist rebels since 1994 or in clashes with Russian-backed forces. Kurz and Bartles offer another view of their motives, arguing that these women are much more motivated by revenge, despair, and their drive for an independent state than by religious fundamentalism or individual honor.