In recent months we have been exposed to the terrorist group the Islamic State (IS), formally known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), slave trade market. Although these sexual slave markets were news to many, they have been used to subjugate women and children in Syria and neighboring areas since at least August of 2014. The highly organized slave trade has been fueled by the abduction of more than 5,000 victims. These survivors range in age from under ten years old to over 50 years old (New York Times, 2015).
This brutal sex trafficking practice is justified by the radical religious views of IS. IS subscribes to the belief that it is their duty to inflict harm on nonbelievers, referred to as apostates, of the Muslim faith. This belief is interpreted and practiced so literally by IS that they have used it to justify the rape and sale of thousands of victims. In the IS sex trade a majority of the women and children are Christians and Yazidis. While it is possible that men are also being victimized in this sex trade, it is widely reported that men are being killed by IS. Young boys that have yet to grow hair on their armpits are spared from death, but instead indoctrinated into IS.
An estimated 2,000 survivors have escaped the imprisonment of IS, but another estimated 3,000 remain in captivity (New York Times, 2015). Some of those who have managed to escape have provided insight as to the functioning of the IS slave trade:
“He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God.” [New York Times, 2015]
“Every time that he came to rape me, he would pray,” said F, a 15-year-old girl who was captured on the shoulder of Mount Sinjar one year ago and was sold to an Iraqi fighter in his 20s. [New York Times, 2015]
This corrupt interpretation of the Quran illustrates the extreme nature of this situation. Having convinced themselves that the systematic raping of non-Muslims is not only justified but holy, perpetrators free themselves from guilt and feel no responsibility or remorse of their inflicted abuses. This mentality is encouraged and has become enshrined as a theology by all members of IS.
This slave trade is also used as a recruitment tool to expand the size of the IS army. Men are sometimes offered women and girls as gifts or are rewarded with them after a competition has been won. Many fighters would gloat about having these women as their slave or Sabaya. These men have complete ownership over these victims to the point where if the man were to die, the woman or women would be distributed along with the rest of his property.
“After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations, after one fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State’s authority to be divided” [New York Times, 2015]
This perverse notion that women and children are the spoils of battle to be divided amongst the winners perpetuates the mentality among IS members that they are entitled to ‘own’ sexual slaves.
Although a number of world power have attempted to defeat IS via military operations, we are far from a unified military response to this organized terrorist group. As militaries and governments struggle to respond to this security crisis, innocent civilians continue to face incredible hardship, including exploitation through an organized, militant-sanctioned sex trafficking market. Especially in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, we must become unified and offer support to the civilians victimized by IS’ sex trade market and the other atrocities. To add your name to petitions to support these victims see the links below:
Help the Yazidi women and girls kidnapped by ISIS
Help the women and girls from my home town who have been kidnapped by ISIS
Stop ISIS Terrorist Attacks In Iraq
Stop ISIS’s Genocide of Christians
– Kimberly Caceres
Intern, ChildRight: NY