Quoting Quran, Islamic State enshrines a ‘Theology of Rape’
Iraq: In the moments
before he raped a 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to
explain her that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen
girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right
to rape her - it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.
He bound her hands and
gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer
before getting on top of her. When it was over, he knelt to pray again,
bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.
“I kept telling him it hurts - please stop,”
said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two
hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever.
He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an
interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped
after 11 months of captivity.
Yazidi girls seized by
ISIS speak out after escape
The systematic rape of
women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed
in the organisation and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year
since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution. Interviews
with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an
examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice
has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets.
The trade in Yazidi
women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of
warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected
and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.
A total of 5,270
Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3,144 are still being held,
according to community leaders. To handle them, the Islamic State has developed
a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarised by
the ISIS-run Islamic courts. And the practice has become an established
recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where
casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.
A growing body of
internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines
for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State
Research and Fatwa Department just last month. Repeatedly, the ISIS leadership
has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious
rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each
sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.
“Every time that he
came to rape me, he would pray,” said F, a 15-year-old girl who was captured on
the shoulder of Mount Sinjar one year ago and was sold to an Iraqi fighter in
his 20s. “He kept telling me this is ibadah,” she said, using a term from
Islamic scripture meaning worship.
“He said that raping me is his prayer to God.
I said to him, ‘What you’re doing to me is wrong, and it will not bring you
closer to God.’ And he said, ‘No, it’s allowed. It’s Halal,’” said the
teenager, who escaped in April with the help of smugglers after being enslaved
for nearly nine months.
F says her family of
nine was trying to escape, speeding up mountain switchbacks, when their aging
Opel overheated. She, her mother, and her sisters — 14, 7, and 4 years old —
were helplessly standing by their stalled car when a convoy of heavily armed
Islamic State fighters encircled them.
“Right away, the
fighters separated the men from the women,” she said. She, her mother and
sisters were first taken in trucks to the nearest town on Mount Sinjar. “There,
they separated me from my mom. The young, unmarried girls were forced to get
The buses were white,
with a painted stripe next to the word “Hajj,” suggesting that the Islamic
State had commandeered Iraqi government buses used to transport pilgrims for
the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. So many Yazidi women and girls were loaded
inside F’s bus that they were forced to sit on each other’s laps, she said.
Once the bus headed
out, they noticed that the windows were blocked with curtains, an accouterment
that appeared to have been added because the fighters planned to transport
large numbers of women who were not covered in burqas or head scarves.
F says she was driven
to the Iraqi city of Mosul some six hours away, where they herded them into the
Galaxy Wedding Hall. Other groups of women and girls were taken to a palace
from the Saddam Hussein era, the Badoosh prison compound and the Directory of Youth
building in Mosul, recent escapees said. And in addition to Mosul, women were
herded into elementary schools and municipal buildings in the Iraqi towns of
Tal Afar, Solah, Ba’aj and Sinjar City.
They would be held in
confinement, some for days, some for months. Then, inevitably, they were loaded
into the same fleet of buses again before being sent in smaller groups to Syria
or to other locations inside Iraq, where they were bought and sold for sex.
“It was 100 per cent
preplanned,” said Khider Domle, a Yazidi community activist who maintains a
detailed database of the victims. “I spoke by telephone to the first family who
arrived at the Directory of Youth in Mosul, and the hall was already prepared
for them. They had mattresses, plates and utensils, food and water for hundreds
Inside the voluminous
Galaxy banquet hall, F sat on the marble floor, squeezed between other
adolescent girls. In all she estimates there were over 1,300 Yazidi girls
sitting, crouching, splayed out and leaning against the walls of the ballroom,
a number that is confirmed by several other women held in the same location.
They each described how
three Islamic State fighters walked in, holding a register. They told the girls
to stand. Each one was instructed to state her first, middle and last name, her
age, her hometown, whether she was married, and if she had children.
For two months, F was
held inside the Galaxy hall. Then one day, they came and began removing young
women. Those who refused were dragged out by their hair, she said.
In the parking lot the
same fleet of Hajj buses was waiting to take them to their next destination,
said F. Along with 24 other girls and young women, the 15-year-old was driven
to an army base in Iraq. It was there in the parking lot that she heard the word
“sabaya” for the first time.
“They laughed and
jeered at us, saying ‘You are our sabaya.’ I didn’t know what that word meant,”
she said. Later on, the local Islamic State leader explained it meant slave.
“He told us that Taus
Malik” — one of seven angels to whom the Yazidis pray — “is not God. He said
that Taus Malik is the devil and that because you worship the devil, you belong
to us. We can sell you and use you as we see fit.”
When she got there,
40-year-old Aishan Ali Saleh found a community elder negotiating with the
Islamic State, asking if they could be allowed to hand over their money and
gold in return for safe passage.
The fighters initially
agreed and laid out a blanket, where Ms Saleh placed her heart-shaped pendant
and her gold rings, while the men left crumpled bills. Instead of letting them
go, the fighters began shoving the men outside, bound for death. Sometime
later, a fleet of cars arrived and the women, girls and children were driven
“When they put us in
the building, they said we had arrived at the ‘Sabaya Market,’” said one
19-year-old victim, whose first initial is I. “I understood we were now in a
She estimated there
were at least 500 other unmarried women and girls in the multistory building,
with the youngest among them being 11. When the buyers arrived, the girls were
taken one by one into a separate room.
“The emirs sat against
the wall and called us by name. We had to sit in a chair facing them. You had
to look at them, and before you went in, they took away our scarves and
anything we could have used to cover ourselves,” she said.
“When it was my turn,
they made me stand four times. They made me turn around.”
The captives were also
forced to answer intimate questions, including reporting the exact date of
their last menstrual cycle. They realised that the fighters were trying to
determine whether they were pregnant, in keeping with a Shariah rule stating
that a man cannot have intercourse with his slave if she is pregnant.
The use of sex slavery
by the Islamic State initially surprised even the group’s most ardent
supporters, many of whom sparred with journalists online after the first
reports of systematic rape. The Islamic State’s leadership has repeatedly
sought to justify the practice to its internal audience.
“What really alarmed me
was that some of the Islamic State’s supporters started denying the matter as
if the soldiers of the Khilafah had committed a mistake or evil,” the author
wrote. “I write this while the letters drip of pride,’’ he said. “We have
indeed raided and captured the kafirah women and drove them like sheep by the
edge of the sword.” Kafirah refers to infidels.
A 25-year-old victim
who escaped last month, identified by her first initial, A, described how one
day her Libyan master handed her a laminated piece of paper. He explained that
he had finished his training as a suicide bomber and was planning to blow
himself up, and was therefore setting her free.
Labeled a “Certificate
of Emancipation,” the document was signed by the judge of the western province
of the Islamic State. The Yazidi woman presented it at security checkpoints as
she left Syria to return to Iraq, where she rejoined her family in July.
The Islamic State
recently made it clear that sex with Christian and Jewish women captured in
battle is also permissible, according to a new 34-page manual issued this
summer by the terror group’s Research and Fatwa Department.
Just about the only
prohibition is having sex with a pregnant slave, and the manual describes how
an owner must wait for a female captive to have her menstruating cycle, in
order to “make sure there is nothing in her womb,” before having intercourse
with her. Of the 21 women and girls interviewed for this article, among the
only ones who had not been raped were the women who were already pregnant at
the moment of their capture, as well as those who were past menopause.
Beyond that, there
appears to be no bounds to what is sexually permissible. Child rape is
explicitly condoned: “It is permissible to have intercourse with the female
slave who hasn’t reached puberty, if she is fit for intercourse,” according to
a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute of a pamphlet
published on Twitter last December.
One 34-year-old Yazidi
woman, who was bought and repeatedly raped by a Saudi fighter in the Syrian
city of Shadadi, described how she fared better than the second slave in the
household — a 12-year-old girl who was raped for days on end despite heavy
“He destroyed her body.
She was badly infected. The fighter kept coming and asking me, ‘Why does she
smell so bad?’ And I said, she has an infection on the inside, you need to take
care of her,” the woman said.
Unmoved, he ignored the
girl’s agony, continuing the ritual of praying before and after raping the
child. “I said to him, ‘She’s just a little girl,’” the older woman recalled.
“And he answered: ‘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,” he said.
- Written by RUKMINI
CALLIMACHI (Courtesy New York Times)