Zainab Bangura, the United Nations Special representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, recently interviewed numerous females whom the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) kidnapped and forced to be sex slaves.
She found what others have previously discovered: rape, slavery, slave markets, and women undergoing surgery to restore their virginity.
“Women and girls are at risk and under assault at every point of their lives,” she explained, adding that the threats lurk behind them “every step of the way… in the midst of active conflict, in areas under control of armed actors, at check-points and border crossings, and in detention facilities.”
She also told journalists about the sex markets the militants throw to sell women to different men.
“Girls are literally being stripped naked and examined in slave bazaars,” she claimed and said they were “categorized and shipped naked off to Dohuk or Mosul or other locations to be distributed among ISIL leadership and fighters.”
In November, a video on YouTube showed ISIS militants laughing and joking while purchasing Yazidi slaves. The men acted like they were bidding on an object, not a human being. One man explained to the camera eye color makes a difference on the price and the female must have all her teeth.
One woman phoned a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter to beg them and the West to designate as their next target the brothel where she being held. She said the terrorists “raped her 30 times in just a few hours.” She wants the brothel bombed to kill the jihadists and end the women’s misery as sex slaves.
Bangura said the militants promised young girls to ISIS leaders. They also force the girls into prostitution, which is one way the group raises funds. One woman was married off 20 times, but each time the militants forced her to undergo surgery to repair her virginity.
Turkish news outlet Hurriyet Daily News interviewed Yazidi women and girls in Iraq about the horrific treatment they received from ISIS. Many are “ashamed and afraid” since they come from “a deeply traditional culture.” From The Sunday Times:
The magnitude of the crisis is such that Baba Sheikh, a prominent Yazidi religious leader, issued an unprecedented statement to the community. It declared the women were victims who had suffered through no fault of their own and should be supported, not ostracised.
Young women worry they will be stigmatised and become “unmarriageable” in a culture in which sexual intercourse before marriage is frowned upon.
Although abortion is illegal in Kurdistan, even for cases of rape, some doctors have secretly been performing terminations for those who have come back pregnant. Some returning Yazidi girls are also secretly seeking surgery to reverse the loss of virginity.
“ISIL have institutionalized sexual violence and the brutalization of women as a central aspect of their ideology and operations, using it as a tactic of terrorism to advance their key strategic objectives,” continued Bangura.
Sarah, a 14-year-old girl The Sunday Times interviewed, is still traumatized. Two men offered their hands in marriage, but she refused.
“I refused both of them; I don’t want to fall in love,” she cried. “I don’t think I can. I don’t want to be married or have children — I am damaged goods.”