ISIS Using Rape, Torture and Sexual Slavery Against Women and Girls

Illustration for article titled ISIS Using Rape, Torture and Sexual Slavery Against Women and Girls

Terrorist group du jour and demonic pieces of shit ISIS — also known as ISIL and the Islamic State — have had a busy year, beheading journalists and aid workers and terrorizing large portions of Iraq and Syria. The group is also systematically raping, torturing and enslaving hundreds of women and girls, a new report from Amnesty International finds.


Earlier this year, an Amnesty International researcher interviewed 42 women and girls who have managed to escape from ISIS. Their research found that that ISIS has specifically targeted the Yezidi, a Kurdish ethnic and religious group based mainly in Iraq. Yezidi women and girls are treated like chattel, given as "gifts" to ISIS fighters and otherwise forced into sham marriages with them:

Younger women and girls, some as young as 12, were separated from their parents and older relatives and sold, given as gifts or forced to marry IS fighters and supporters. Many have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, and have likewise been pressured into converting to Islam.

Up to 300 of those abducted, mostly women and children, have managed to escape IS captivity, while the majority continue to be held in various locations in Iraq and in parts of Syria controlled by the IS. They are moved frequently from place to place. Some are able to communicate with their displaced relatives in areas outside IS control but the fate and whereabouts of others are not known.

One fifteen-year-old girl related the story of being kidnapped from her village along with her mother after their male relatives were killed. She was being forcibly married off to an ISIS fighter twice her age, who beat and raped her:

We were about 150 girls and five women. A man called Salwan took me from there to an abandoned house. He also took my cousin, who is 13 years old; we resisted and they beat us. He took me as his wife by force. I told him I did not want to and tried to resist but he beat me. My nose was bleeding, I could not do anything to stop him. I ran away as soon as I could. Luckily they did not do anything to my cousin, did not force her to marry, and she escaped with me. I went to a doctor here, who said that I was not pregnant and didn't have any disease, but I can't forget what happened to me. It is so painful what they did to me and to my family.

Amnesty has also managed to intermittently make contact with women and girls still in ISIS captivity, they say. The "fragmented and sporadic information" they've managed to gather, they add, "matches the harrowing accounts of those who have managed to escape: systematic physical and psychological torture, including rape and other sexual violence, abuses which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Other women in ISIS custody have committed suicide to avoid being raped or enslaved. An account from a 20-year-old who had escaped, about a friend of hers being held in Mosul:

We were 21 girls in one room, two of them were very young, 10-12 years. One day we were given clothes that looked like dance costumes and were told to bathe and wear those clothes. Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself. She was very beautiful. I think she knew that she was going to be taken away by a man and that is why she killed herself.


Other women told Amnesty that they, too, had attempted suicide.

Not all of the perpetrators are ISIS fighters; some are local businessmen in Iraq and Syria who buy women and girls from ISIS, then "marry" them in courts set up by the terrorist group. And some of the women who managed to escape say they were aided by the other wives of the ISIS members.


Amnesty says ISIS isn't trying to hide their crimes. Quite the opposite, in fact: 'The IS has also boasted about subjecting abducted Yezidi women and girls to sexual violence and slavery, seeking to legitimize these abhorrent and criminal practices according to their interpretation of Islam." The group's "Office of research and religious edicts" has issued a statement saying, essentially, that it's fine to rape "female captives and slaves," whether or not they've reached puberty.

Even the women who have escaped face new dangers. The Yezidi don't allow marriages with other ethnic or religious groups. In the past, women who have done so have been the victims of "honor killings" by their male relatives. Although a Yezidi spiritual leader has urged that the women be welcomed back and not shamed or isolated, Amnesty says, the stigma remains: "Some said that it would be difficult to find suitable husbands for those who had been abducted, even if they had not been victims of sexual violence, because it was assumed that all those abducted had been raped." Some of the women also report being forced to talk to journalists against their will, or even being filmed without their permission.


Amnesty International is calling on the Kurdistan regional government and the United Nations to provide appropriate health and psychological care, including treatment for sexually transmitted infections, safe abortions services, legal and financial assistance, shelter, and help finding employment.

A 15-year-old Yazidi girl kidnapped and forcibly married to an Isis fighter in Syria gives an interview in Dahuk, Kurdistan after she managed to escape. Image via AP


Ari Schwartz: Dark Lord of the Snark

I'd be curious to see a historical study that cross-studies multiple ideologically "pure" warring states to see how common this behavior is. Put another way, I know for a fact this was done by the Japanese during the WW2 era. I'm sure this was done by the Mongols. We know it occurred during the Peloponnesian War. And so on.

This is really not particular to ISISIL. But I'm curious how common it is and what factors lead to it. Ideological surety? Race/ideology-based warfare?

It's easy to say they're evil bad bad guys, but what leads some shitty political/military organizations to be this way, but not necessarily others?