Middle East

ISIS enshrines a theology of rape

A 12-year-old girl from the Yazidi minority who says she was raped by an Islamic State fighter, at the refugee camp she and her family now live in Qadiya, Iraq, on July 28, 2015. Photo: The New York Times
Aishan Ali Saleh, a member of the Yazidi minority, now living in a refugee camp outside Dohuk, Iraq, on July 24, 2015. Photo: The New York Times
A woman from the village of Tojo washing dishes in a refugee camp in Kurdistan. She was held by the Islamic State from last August until June and says she was sexually abused. Photo: The New York Times
A 25-year-old Yazidi woman showed a “Certificate of Emancipation” given to her by a Libyan who had enslaved her. 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. Photo: The New York Times
Sunset over Dohuk, in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Photo: The New York Times
A 15-year-old girl who wished to be identified only as F, right, with her father and 4-year-old brother. “Every time that he came to rape me, he would pray,” said F, who was captured by the Islamic State on Mount Sinjar one year ago and sold to an Iraqi fighter. Photo: The New York Times
A 19-year-old Yazidi woman, one of hundreds who says she was taken into sexual slavery by the Islamic State group, now living at a refugee camp in Qadiya, Iraq, on July 18, 2015. Photo: The New York Times
Claiming the Quran’s support, the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool
Published: 8:34 AM, August 14, 2015
Updated: 8:42 AM, August 14, 2015
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QADIYA (Iraq) — In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practised 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.

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 emphasised 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. Like some others interviewed by The New York Times, she wanted to be identified only by her first initial because of the shame associated with rape.

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