For over a year, human rights activists and journalists have been documenting the ways in which rape and sexual slavery have become a cornerstone of the “theology” of ISIS. On Tuesday, Reuters reported on a detailed fatwa issued by the group, which makes it clear, once again, how thoroughly rape and sexual slavery are normalized, justified, and woven into their operations.
ISIS has been systematically brutalizing, raping and enslaving Yazidi women, a Kurdish religious minority based mainly in Iraq. And instead of trying to hide what are clear and obvious war crimes, they’ve turned them into a recruiting tool to bring in new fighters.
But there’s clearly some anxiety over the treatment of female captives. Reuters managed to obtain the fatwa, or ruling, on how they should be treated, as well as who is permitted to rape them. The ruling, published in January of this year, was “among a huge trove of documents captured by U.S. Special Operations Forces during a raid targeting a top Islamic State official in Syria in May.” Reuters published the document in full; it’s typed, issued from the “ISIL Committee of Research and Fatwas,” and written in a dry legalese that somehow makes it even more horrifying.
The document was evidently written in response to a question, which reads:
Some of the brothers have committed violations in the matter of the treatment of female slaves. These violations are not permitted by Sharia law, because the rules have not been dealt with in ages. Are there any warnings pertaining to this matter? May Allah protect you.
(The reason slavery hasn’t been “dealt with” in ages is because the Quran does not actually permit it; one prominent scholar of Islamic law told CNN that ISIS’ interpretation that slavery is permissible is “an affront to right-thinking Muslims everywhere and a criminal perversion of Islamic law, particularly its primary source, the Glorious Quran.”)
And an excerpt from the fatwa’s response:
Therefore we say, and may Allah grant us success:
- It is not permissible for the owner of a female captive to have intercourse with her until after she has had her menstrual cycle and become clean.
- If she does not menstruate and is pregnant, he is not allowed to have intercourse with her until after she has given birth.
- It is not permissible to cause her to abort if she is pregnant.
- If the owner of a female captive releases her, only he can have intercourse with her and he is [sic] cannot allow someone else to have intercourse with her.
- If the owner of a female captive, who has a daughter suitable for intercourse, has sexual relations with the latter, he is not permitted to have intercourse with her mother and she is permanently off-limits to him. Should he have intercourse with her mother then he is not permitted to have intercourse with her daughter and she is permanently off-limits to him.
- The owner of two sisters is not allowed to have intercourse with both of them; rather, he may only have intercourse with just one. The other sister is to be had by him, if he were to relinquish ownership of the first sister by giving her away or releasing her.
- If the female captive is owned by a father, his son cannot have intercourse with her and vice versa. Moreover, intercourse with his wife’s female captive is also not permissible.
Anal sex and rape during a woman’s menstrual cycle are also explicitly forbidden; so is raping someone purchased by two or more people, since she is part of a “joint ownership.”
After laying out a systematized philosophy of rape, the document also tells fighters to “show compassion” towards their slaves, adding, “be kind to her, not humiliate her, and not assign her work she is unable to perform.”
An undated photo of ISIS fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria. Photo via AP Images