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Islamic State (ISIS) Practices Systematic Sexual Slavery on Yazidis, and Uses This as a Recruiting Tool

2015-08-14

An article in the New York Times (NYT) (find it here) goes into considerable detail, with multiple eyewitness  and victim accounts, on the system of sexual slavery that the Islamic State (ISIS) leaders have developed.  Their only victims so far, it appears, have been the Yazidis, but accounts of the perpetrators’ theological justifications for these acts suggest that they would do the same with victim populations of any ethnicity, given their complete control over them.

Eyewitness accounts describe the ISIS fighters’ behavior after they captured and disarmed groups of Yazidis: the men would be examined by pulling their shirts up, and any who had armpit hair would be led off to be shot in a ditch.  The women were divided into groups based on their age and menstrual status: those who were less than 10 years old or so would be kept with the male children; the girls and women who were at least near menarche and premenopausal would be classified and eventually sold off or given to a fighter; the older women would go with the children, or if there were a lot of them, they might be shot too.

The women who were sold off were first photographed sitting in a chair fully clothed except for any covering over their hair.  Then the photographs were distributed and the women chosen based on their appearance. Women were also evaluated at the warehouses where they were held in special viewing rooms.  Those who were taken were expected to accede to their owner’s every demand as well as performing household chores.  The men routinely forced sex on children younger than 12; an eyewitness described the pain, bleeding, and infection that these young victims suffered.

The women described buses that were assigned to pick them up and distribute them to their next holding location or final placement, buildings that were repurposed as holding areas, arrangements for food and clothing, and other details.  The plan was elaborate and had been researched in advance.  The Yazidis were chosen because their religion is considered by ISIS scholars as being polytheistic, and thus ineligible to pay the tax prescribed in the Koran.  The religious questions that allow them to make these decisions are vague and open to interpretation, to say the least.

The motivation behind this behavior is that the Muslim men who are becoming adherents of ISIS are completely bereft of any exposure to the opposite sex other than their mothers and sisters.  There is no dating and nearly no social interaction between young men and young women, even with supervision or chaperoning.  The average Muslim man in most of these societies is a virgin when he marries unless he has been to a big city and had relations with a prostitute (I don’t have proof of this but there is also no reference whatever to premarital sex.)

In this atmosphere, a young man who could freely and without concern about committing a sin, have sexual relations with a woman, however inadequate, would be highly motivated to enter into such a relationship.  The practice, as sanctioned and organized by ISIS higher-ups, is a potent tool for recruitment.  Individuals recruited by these means would be likely to be sociopathic and make good fighters.

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