According to a shocking report by the Washington Post, the self-proclaim Islamic State has been capturing and selling women and girls into sex slavery and according to an eyewitness, even burned a women alive who refused to engage in extreme sexual acts.
Zainab Bangura, the U.N.’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, took a tour of refugee camps in Syria and Iraq, two parts of the world where the Islamic State has most control, and reported:
“They are institutionalizing sexual violence,” Bangura said of the Islamic State. “The brutalization of women and girls is central to their ideology.”
The Post shared the following excerpt from Bangura’s report about how the buying and selling of these women and girls are conducted.
After attacking a village, [the Islamic State] splits women from men and executes boys and men aged 14 and over. The women and mothers are separated; girls are stripped naked, tested for virginity and examined for breast size and prettiness. The youngest, and those considered the prettiest virgins fetch higher prices and are sent to Raqqa, the IS stronghold.
There is a hierarchy: sheikhs get first choice, then emirs, then fighters. They often take three or four girls each and keep them for a month or so, until they grow tired of a girl, when she goes back to market. At slave auctions, buyers haggle fiercely, driving down prices by disparaging girls as flat-chested or unattractive.
We heard about one girl who was traded 22 times, and another, who had escaped, told us that the sheikh who had captured her wrote his name on the back of her hand to show that she was his “property.”
It is estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 women and girls are enslaved by the Islamic State at this time. The Post explains that “Many are Yazidis, a persecuted minority sect that the extremist Islamic State considers to be apostate “devil-worshippers,” in part because of the Yazidis’ ancient connection to the region’s pre-Islamic past.”
The Yazidi’s are treated even worse if you can even imagine that, than they other captives, as Bangura explains further:
They commit rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and other acts of extreme brutality. We heard one case of a 20-year-old girl who was burned alive because she refused to perform an extreme sex act. We learned of many other sadistic sexual acts. We struggled to understand the mentality of people who commit such crimes.
Hundreds of these girls and women have managed to escape but according to Bangura neither the U.N. or regional authorities are equipped to deal with the needs to the former captives.
She suggested that the resilience of these women and ability to rebuild their lives will “strip victory away” from the Islamic State.
“This is precisely what [the Islamic State] does not want,” says Bangura. “It can be a kind of vengeance, helping these women recover and giving them a path to thrive.”
The U.N. along with the U.S. and its allies must be doing more to help these enslaved girls and women and beat back the stronghold the Islamic State has been allowed to flourish in these regions. Continued inaction will only create a more dangerous condition for these captives and others like them.
(Image: Day Donaldson / Flickr / Creative Commons)