The Brutal Sex Slavery System of ISIS
The Brutal Sex Slavery System of ISIS
“Why does she smell so bad?” demanded the ISIS fighter of the older of two Yazidi sex slaves he kept in the Syrian city of Shadadi.
The 34-year-old woman responded, “She has an infection inside, you need to take care of her.” The fighter remained indifferent to the suffering of the younger slave; instead he continued his ritual of praying before and after he raped her.
How old was the slave? She was only 12 years old. But the ISIS fighter insisted, “No. She’s not a little girl. She’s a slave. And she knows exactly how to have sex. And having sex with her pleases God.”
This is not isolated; indeed, as the New York Times has reported, the sex slave trade has theological roots in the Quran which permits the enslavement of non-Muslim women. To accommodate this, ISIS has created a bureaucratic system and infrastructure to handle the estimated 3100+ Yazidi sex slaves that are currently being held. An total of 5270 Yazidi women were abducted last year.
Rape and sex slavery are not exclusive to Yazidi women. The family of the late Kayla Mueller, an American hostage held by ISIS until her death was announced in February, have reported that she was taken as a “wife” by ISIS leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi and raped repeatedly.
This network of sex slavery includes buses to transport the women, warehouses to hold them, and even “showrooms” where slaves are inspected and marketed — much like the Victorian era horse fairs described in the classic novel Black Beauty. Women are confined in preplanned facilities, such as a large hall, where their names, ages, hometowns, and marital statuses are recorded by ISIS. The women are also asked if they have any children. Eventually they are taken — some pulled by the hair if they refuse — by bus to a “Sabaya Market,” ‘sabaya’ being the word for ‘slave.’ When buyers arrive, the women are taken singly into a viewing room, where their scarves are removed and men can assess their appearance. They are asked intimate questions, even to the date of their last menstrual cycle. A sharia rule states that a man cannot have sex with a slave if she is pregnant, so this indicates to the buyers if a woman is fit for sexual activity. Otherwise, nothing is off-limits for ISIS, and childhood isn’t a deterrent, either. The Middle East Media Research Institute translated a passage on an ISIS pamphlet posted on Twitter to read: “It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty, if she is fit for intercourse.”
The British Daily Mail published an ISIS price list for slaves; here the equivalents to dinars given in British pounds:
A woman aged 40 to 50 – 50,000 dinars (£27)
A woman aged 30 to 40 – 75,000 dinars (£40)
A woman aged 20 to 30 – 100,000 dinars (£53)
A girl, aged 10 to 20 – 150,000 dinars (£80)
A child under nine – 200,000 dinars (£106)
That’s repulsive enough, but this video taken of ISIS merrily laughing about purchasing Yazidi slaves is nothing short of revolting.
Taking sex slaves during war, of course, is nothing new, even in recent history. In World War II, Japanese soldiers took Korean and Chinese women as “comfort women.” Seventy years later, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed “profound grief” for Japanese atrocities committed in World War II, and has upheld a 1995 fund to provide compensation for surviving comfort women.
While Japan abandoned its brutal aggression decades ago to become an ally of the United States and the West, Syria and Iraq continue their descent into the hell wrought by ISIS. Retiring Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno said he is frustrated to watch the gains he made in Iraq crumble in the advance of ISIS. “I go back to the work we did in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and we got it to a place that was really good. Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction,” he said in an interview last month. In 2009, Odierno had recommended that 30,000-35,000 remain in Iraq after the close of 2011, a recommendation that President Obama did not follow.
Where do we go from here?
Certainly there is little we as individuals can do to aid the women brutalized by ISIS. The vast majority of us cannot be a Jordan Matson, the former Army private who has joined with the Kurds to fight ISIS. However, in this election season we need to pay close attention to the statements of the various presidential candidates. We need to see who wants to continue the cuts to the military, and who wants to build up forces again; who wants to keep the nuclear deal with Iran, and who wants to gut it; who wants to maintain the status quo bombing of ISIS, and who wants to become more aggressive. Finally, we need a President who actually calls radical terrorism “Islamic,” rather than avoiding the obvious, and looking weak in the process.
As the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — the “Iron Lady” — said to President George H.W. Bush on the eve of the first Gulf War, “Remember George, this is no time to go wobbly.” We’ve had nearly eight years of a wobbly president. We need a president of strength. At the very least, thousands of Iraqi and Syrian women who follow minority faiths do too.