The continual attempts of the Islamic State (IS) to systematically annihilate the non-Islamic world have striking similarities. Texts such as the Koran and Hadith boast close to two hundred verses advocating jihad, and lay out specific guidelines for waging this “holy war”. Beheadings and suicide bombings are commonplace, and Westerners are primed by the media to see these atrocities as the defining features of Islamic radicalism. However, a recent development in the IS terror trend that remains distinct is the newly reinstated practice of sex slavery.
Regardless of the constant professing of IS that they act in the name of Allah and the Islamic faith, there is a strong tendency of Western left-wing ideologues to deny the religiosity of the agenda. Such vehement refusal to criticise the religion itself continues to be as baffling as it is frustrating—augmented by the paranoia of the Left that any criticism of Islam amounts to bigotry. More to the point, the lofty attitude of these self-deprecating Westerners does nothing to support the cause of the “unbelievers” enslaved and violated by IS.
The unbelievers in question are the Yazidi religious minority, who inhabit tiny villages on the southern flank of Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. They are an estimated 1.5 per cent of Iraq’s population of 34 million. The justification of the persecution put forward by IS is the Yazidis’ connection to a pre-Islamic past. They can therefore be defined as “devil worshippers”, a perfect sect of infidels.
Although the sex-slave trade gained momentum early in 2014, the brutal attacks of August 3 on Mount Sinjar brought the issue blazing into the spotlight. IS fighters stormed the Yazidi villages, separating the men from the women. The men and boys were taken to nearby fields, forced to lie on the ground, and peppered with automatic fire. Women and girls were dragged into open-bed trucks, taken to warehouses and sold at auction, often for the price of a packet of cigarettes. It was the single largest kidnapping of women this century.
One woman, who identified herself as Dalia, gave this harrowing account of the attacks:
We woke up in the village of Hardan in the Sinjar mountains with IS forces attacking us. We tried to flee, but they captured us. They brought us together in the village square and told us if we didn’t convert to Islam, we would die. We agreed, to save our lives, but it didn’t help. They took the men … They separated the younger women from the older ones … The IS commanders, including Turks, Germans and Chechens, came every day and bought one of us females, including girls who were twelve or thirteen.
Dalia continued with a description of her treatment after being purchased:
One day an IS member by the name of Abu Mustafa took me so he could give me as a gift to a Chechen member of the organisation named Ayman. Before raping me, Ayman pulled my hair and forced me to dunk my head in a full pail of oil, telling me: “You are so dirty that this is how we will purify you.” Then he imprisoned me in his house and raped me for three days.
According to UN envoy against sexual violence Zainab Bangura, the selection process is very specific. Girls and women are stripped naked and scrutinised for attractiveness and breast size, and put through intrusive virginity tests. The youngest and those considered the prettiest are sent to Al-Raqqah, the stronghold and self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State. The oldest women fetch the lowest price, and girls aged one to nine are the most expensive. Virgins are distinguished from the group, and have a higher price again. Age is not a factor in sexual slavery; child rape is encouraged.
The sex-slave markets serve three key purposes for IS. First, they attract foreign fighters. According to community leaders, a total of 5270 Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3144 are still being held captive in Iraq and Syria. The United Nations recently released a report stating that over the last two years, more than 25,000 fighters from over one hundred countries have poured into the Middle East. Most of them have infiltrated Syria and Iraq, and the lure of sex slaves is crucial to the influx.
To maintain control, IS has developed an intricate bureaucracy of sexual slavery, so stringent in its rules and organisation that the sales contracts are notarised by the IS-run Islamic courts. Men from deeply conservative Islamic communities, in which casual sex is forbidden, see the promise of the sex trade as a golden opportunity to fulfil what they believe is the will of Allah while indulging in a twisted sexual campaign.
The second purpose is to generate a profit for IS. The markets are run as a business, like the cattle trade. There is a structure to the auctions, and a limit to the number of slaves one man can buy. For example, unless he is from Syria, Turkey, or a Gulf nation, a man can only purchase up to three women. Saudi buyers accrue transport and food costs that other members of IS do not. Therefore, they are provided with a higher travel quota to make their purchases profitable. Some fighters will sell slaves back to their families for an obscene profit, often tens of thousands of dollars. Foreign radicals are satisfied, and the Islamic State continues to bring in revenue.
The hierarchy of IS is observed when the Yazidis are sold. Sheikhs are given first choice, followed by emirs, with fighters receiving third preference. “They often take three or four girls each and keep them for a month or so, until they grow tired of a girl, when she goes back to market,” Bangura continued. “At slave auctions, buyers haggle fiercely, driving down prices by disparaging girls as flat-chested or unattractive. We heard about one girl who was traded twenty-two times.”
The third prong of the sex trade is a slow genocide of the Yazidi “infidels” by waging a war on women. Putting aside the number of women and girls who die from infections or are murdered by their captors, sixty Yazidis commit suicide every month. Terrified of being ostracised by their families because of the shame associated with rape, and unable to bear the barbaric treatment they suffer, many choose to end their lives. IS has forbidden slaves from wearing headscarves, as too many are used for hangings. Other girls slice their wrists or throw themselves out of moving trucks. Some have electrocuted themselves.
One Kurdish human rights activist accurately described the tragedy of the situation: “An entire generation of Yazidis has disappeared off the face of the earth.”
A woman who has worked with survivors of the sex trade recounted the story of Jilan Barjess-Naif, aged seventeen, “a beautiful green-eyed girl, with rare blonde hair”. Because of her unique looks, she was separated from less attractive girls, and deemed fit for “special rape treatment”. She slashed her wrists near Mosul, northern Iraq, in a public bath-house. When her body was discovered, it was thrown from an upstairs window into a dumpster. According to Yazidi nurse Amal Hasou, the bodies of some girls who commit suicide are thrown to the dogs.
Jilan’s sister Jihan suffered a similar fate. She was transferred, along with a number of other girls, to Al-Raqqah. A few days after being subjected to the markets, she took her own life. Their pregnant mother, who gave birth to her baby in a cave, was eventually freed but returned home driven insane by the suicides of her daughters. In addition, IS executed six of Jilan and Jihan’s siblings and their father, and arrested twenty other family members. Their whereabouts are still unknown.
In the Syrian city of Shadadi, a thirty-four-year-old Yazidi woman was repeatedly raped by a Saudi fighter. However, she was more fortunate than the Saudi man’s second slave, a twelve-year-old girl who, regardless of heavy bleeding, was raped for days at a time: “He destroyed her body. She was badly infected,” the woman said.
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. I said to him, “She’s just a little girl,” 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.”
The statement, “Having sex with her pleases God”, ties into the reasoning behind this human trafficking. Members of IS are explicit in their justification of sex slavery: to forge a path to Allah while adhering to the instructions laid out by Muhammad in the Hadith and Koran. They readily assert that Islam is the motivation behind their treatment of these unbelieving women and girls. They are, in fact, proud that they are following these teachings so stringently.
As their agenda is to conquer the world and destroy the West by enforcing sharia law, it is unsurprising that they cite religion as motivation. However, Western left-wing apologists continue to insist that the driving force is not Islam. They blame other generalised causes of dysfunction: despotism, extremism, and sometimes mental illness. To them, the terrorist is the victim, not the villain; the problem is external, not intrinsic. They clamour that the vile agenda is a disorganised, chaotic regime with very little structure, perpetuated by lunatics.
This is most certainly not the case. The force behind the sex-slave trade is frighteningly organised, its leaders are intelligent, and its structure is chillingly precise. For example; last year a twenty-seven-point pamphlet was released by IS clarifying the position Islamic law takes on slavery. It explicitly states that forcibly engaging in intercourse with non-Muslim women and girls is permissible:
Question 3: Can all unbelieving women be taken captive?
There is no dispute among the scholars that it is permissible to capture unbelieving women [who are characterised by] original unbelief [kufr asli], such as the kitabiyat [women from among the People of the Book, that is, Jews and Christians] and polytheists. However, [the scholars] are disputed over [the issue of] capturing apostate women. The consensus leans towards forbidding it, though some people of knowledge think it permissible. We [IS] lean towards accepting the consensus …
Question 4: Is it permissible to have intercourse with a female captive?
It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with the female captive. Allah the almighty said: “[Successful are the believers] who guard their chastity, except from their wives or [the captives and slaves] that their right hands possess, for then they are free from blame …” [Koran 23:5-6]
The answer to question thirteen gives a more disturbing answer:
Question 13: Is it permissible to have intercourse with a female slave who has not reached puberty?
It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse; however, if she is not fit for intercourse, then it is enough to enjoy her without intercourse.
Question six reveals the Islamic State’s willingness to buy and sell women:
Question 6: Is it permissible to sell a female captive?
It is permissible to buy, sell, or give as a gift female captives and slaves, for they are merely property, which can be disposed of as long as that doesn’t cause [the Muslim ummah] any harm or damage.
It is evident that the sex-slave trade is clinically structured, and this structure is based on religion. There are a number of verses in the Koran and Hadith that support the practice, most notably the accounts that Muhammad himself kept slaves. He also traded in slaves from Africa and other areas, as did many other people in the Arabian Peninsula at the time. One account (among many others), Koran 4:24, states, “And all married women [are forbidden unto you] save those [captives] whom your right hands possess [slaves].”
This is supported by the Hadith. Bukhari 34:432 describes women captured and raped with Muhammad’s approval. Muhammad discusses selling the women because of concerns that impregnating them will lower the price. Bukhari 62:137 accounts for women taken as slaves in battle. After their husbands and fathers were killed, they were raped; again with Muhammad’s approval.
The phenomenon of slavery in Islam is not a recent one, nor is it only mentioned sporadically in religious texts. Islam has a long history of trading slaves. According to Murray Gordon, the European African slave trade was preceded by the Muslim African slave trade by one thousand years.
As Islam expanded in the seventh and eighth centuries, Muslim jihadists infiltrated Asia and Africa, enslaving huge numbers of people. The mortality rate was high, but the trade proved so lucrative that Muslim leaders continued the human trafficking. As the supply of slaves was constantly being replenished, the trade grew quickly. A gargantuan network was established; slaves were also taken from the Byzantine empire, sub-Saharan Africa, and eventually Europe.
However, the African trade was the largest. At least 17 million slaves were harvested from Africa, two thirds of them women. However, these were only the survivors; it is estimated that up to 85 million Africans died en route. Eventually, the slave trade spread to India and Europe, with Muslim pirates terrorising Spain, Italy, Britain and even Iceland. Between 1530 and 1780, approximately a million white European Christians were enslaved by Muslims.
Even after its official abolition, slavery is still entrenched in Muslim ideology. Rukmini Callimachi, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, has been instrumental in exposing the explosive resurgence of sexual slavery, and has highlighted the inherent religious and theological motivation with evidence from escaped Yazidi girls and women.
Callimachi revealed the horrifying network of the trade in a ground-breaking report. “We first became aware of [the sexual slavery] last August, when IS took Sinjar Mountain,” she stated in an interview.
And very soon after, there were reports that they were raping the women and enslaving them. And it sounded so crazy at the time that many reporters, myself included, thought it must to be an exaggeration, that it couldn’t be true.
However, a revelation in October 2014 confirmed that the reports were true. In their official English-language magazine, Dabiq, IS published an article titled “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour”. This piece not only admitted to the trade, but unashamedly asserted that the justification for slavery was theological.
“[It is] based on the fact that [sexual slavery] is mentioned in the Koran, and that it was practiced, allegedly, by the Prophet Mohammed and his closest companions,” Callimachi continued. As a journalist, she has covered rape in the Congo, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and other places where rape is used as an instrument of war. However, the critical difference is that these perpetrators usually attempt to deny or hide the use of rape, as it is seen as something shameful. IS, on the other hand, happily admits to it and encourages the practice.
“Here, the Islamic State was publicly advertising it,” Callimachi stated.
Of course, they don’t use the word “rape.” They don’t consider what they are doing to these women to be rape, they just call it sexual intercourse … I just was dumbfounded that a group would admit to such a horrible, horrible practice.
After interviewing escaped Yazidi women and girls, Callimachi was shocked to discover that rather than a disorganised system of “repetitive rape”, the victims suffered a co-operative of organised rape deliberately cloaked in Islamic ideological justification. Many of the Yazidis had asked their captors why they were being subjected to such abuse. The common response was, “You’re a disbeliever, you’re an infidel, and what I am about to you is good for you and it’s good for Islam. What I am about to do to you, God will smile down on me for doing …” The phrase used over and over again was, “I am drawing closer to God by raping you.”
The rape itself was referred to as ibadah, meaning “worship”. The account of a fifteen-year-old girl captured on Mount Sinjar last year, sold to an Iraqi fighter in his twenties, demonstrates this. “Every time that he came to rape me, he would pray,” she said. “He kept telling me this is ibadah. 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.’” Another account tells of a fighter who forced his slaves to recite passages from the Koran as he raped them.
Social media is a breeding ground for similar IS propaganda. Israfil Yilmaz, a Dutch Islamic State fighter, has stated in a blog post that the trade has more to do with the Islamic State’s agenda to restore the world to the original caliphate—a “pure” state of Islam—than sex. In addition, an IS member recently tweeted that the purpose of keeping “concubines” is to introduce unbelievers to Islam in an Islamic environment—teaching them the religion while forcing them to convert. The Twitter post stated, “Many of the concubines/slaves of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) became Muslim and some even [became] big commanders and leaders in Islamic history and this is if you ask me the true essence of having slaves/concubines.”
Regardless of the evidence supporting the dangers of Islamic ideology, there is a still a refusal by the Left to address it as the catalyst for Islamic terror. Many apologists turn to the usual (irrelevant) criticism of Christianity to encourage this reservation of judgment, pointing out that the Bible mentions slavery in the Old Testament. This is true, but the context is very different. In Deuteronomy, the Bible speaks of capturing slaves; passages almost identical to certain verses in the Koran. However, the Bible does not treat slavery as divinely ordained. Instead, it conveys slavery as a reflection of the condition of humankind at the time, and constantly describes “voluntary” slavery as opposed to forced.
The greatest contrast between the Bible and the Koran is the New Testament, in which Saint Paul the Apostle (among others) explicitly condemns slavery, and urges slaves to take their freedom if possible. 1 Corinthians 7:21 states, “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.” Islamic religious texts have no such contradiction of slavery advocacy.
Pointedly, there is also no record of Muslims seeking to end the slave trade at any stage. By contrast, it was a small group of Christians in the eighteenth century (notably John Newton and William Wilberforce) who took the measures that led to the abolition of the European trade. It is also relevant to mention that the European slave trade was not justified wholly by Christian ideology. This was not (and is still not) the case with the Islamic slave trade.
The self-deprecating of self-loathing Westerners and the political correctness of the media have branded any criticism of Islam as bigotry or “Islamophobia”. The term “racism” constantly makes a nonsensical appearance. Islam is not a race; it is a belief system, like other religions. To insist that showing dissent towards Islam is somehow bigoted, while happily criticising other religions, is a double standard.
However, the fact that most Muslims are moderate, peaceful and productive members of society must not be ignored. The blame should not be laid on Muslim people as a whole, most of whom look on in silent horror at the destruction their cherished beliefs are causing. However, this does not change the fact that atrocities such as the sexual slavery trade are occurring because of this insidious religious ideology. Put simply, the peaceful majority cannot be cited as a reason for absolving Islam of any responsibility, nor should Islam be immune to criticism because of it.
This was impeccably demonstrated at the 2014 Benghazi Accountability Coalition Event. The purpose of this gathering was to discuss concerns associated with the 2012 attacks on the US diplomatic compound in Libya. Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese Catholic who was persecuted by Muslim radicals as a child and is a long-time campaigner against radical Islam, gave a stirring reply to a loaded question asked by moderate Muslim law student Saba Ahmed.
Ahmed pointedly reminded the Coalition of the peaceful majority. “I know we portray … all Muslims as bad, but there are 1.8 billion followers of Islam,” she stated, wearing a hijab. Gabriel responded:
There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today. Of course not all of them are radicals. The majority of them are peaceful people. The radicals are estimated to be between 15 to 25 per cent according to all intelligence services around the world. That leaves 75 per cent [of Muslims] being peaceful people. But when you’re looking at 15-25 per cent … you’re looking at 180 million to 300 million people dedicated to the destruction of Western civilisation. That is as big as the United States.
So why should we worry about the radical 15 to 25 per cent? Because it is the radicals that kill. Because it is the radicals that behead and massacre. When you look throughout history … most Germans were peaceful. Yet the Nazis drove the agenda. And as a result, 60 million people died … the peaceful majority were irrelevant.
Most Russians were peaceful as well. But the Russians were able to kill 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant … When you look at Japan prior to World War II, most Japanese were peaceful people too. Yet Japan was able to butcher its way across South-East Asia, killing 12 million people … the peaceful majority were irrelevant.
On September 11 in the United States we had 2.3 million Arab Muslims living in the US. It took nineteen hijackers—nineteen radicals—to bring America to its knees … and kill almost 3000 Americans. It’s time we take political correctness and throw it in the garbage where it belongs.
Consider the evidence. Acknowledge the history, the religious texts, and the testament of the women and girls who have had their fragile bodies bartered, sold, and violated beyond belief. Consider the blatant professing of IS that state-sanctioned rape facilitates passage to Allah. Finally, remember that the nature of the Islamic State is, by its very name, Islamic.
The persecution of the Yazidis, along with other acts of terror committed by IS, are not the fault of extremism, fundamentalism or mental illness. Terrorism is not the result of a failure by the Western world to accommodate or understand the “cultural differences” of Islam. To suggest this, which many unthinking liberals do, is to trivialise the abhorrent persecution faced by the Yazidis and others like them. It is hypocrisy and banal appeasement at its worst. With all facts on the table, and all excuses quashed, the rotten core of the problem can only be Islam.
Victoria Kincaid is a journalist, screenwriter and poet.