The Islamic State group claims to be pushing a more moral, religious society in the territories it has captured, but multiple reports in recent days have revealed the widespread rape of women and girls – some as young as 9 – by jihadi fighters, an outrage one publication described as occurring on an “industrial scale.”
Quoting an unnamed Iraqi official, the New York Post reported Monday that Islamic State militants are estimated to have raped thousands of women in Iraq and Syria, motivated by the desire to perpetuate their DNA, by the blessing of an Islamic cleric and that “they are just plain out for twisted thrills.”
“The fighters say that they’ve been ordered to have sex by a cleric in Saudi Arabia,” the Iraqi official said. “It’s really just an excuse.”
Iraqi women and girls hold placards that read in Arabic: “Where are you, you, who call for freedom?” and “Help women who are abused by the Islamic State” during a demonstration to denounce abuse against women by the Islamic State, Sept. 13, 2014 in the southern city of Basra. (Haidar Mohammed Ali/AFP/Getty Images)
“They want to become part of the fabric of the cities they control so they can live on for generations,” the official added.
“You have these young ISIS fighters carrying machine guns and they ... want to have sex,” the official told the Post, but their commanders “don’t want them to mess around with the women. They only want them to fight.”
Britain’s Daily Mail reported that the militants are “routinely” raping girls who are being held hostage, some as young as 9.
A former recruit of the Islamic State group told journalist Rozh Ahmad for the publication Your Middle East that militants believe they’ve been granted an Allah-given right to rape non-Muslim prisoners.
The former Islamic State fighter, a Kurd identified by the pseudonym “Sherko Omer” said those tapped for suicide attacks were encouraged to rape women before embarking on their mission.
"They spoke no Arabic, they weren’t good fighters and had no professional skills. They were brainwashed into the ‘women in heaven’ and those they could rape on earth before they eventually killed themselves,” Omer said.
It's a common belief among jihadi fighters that they will enjoy 72 virgins in heaven if they die in battle.
Sexual violence appears to be particularly targeted at non-Muslim women.
“[Islamic State] emirs and commanders ... believe it is permissible to sleep with women prisoners even against their will if they are infidels, non-Muslims and apostate women," Omer said. "This happened to Christian women in Al-Raqqa after their husbands were publically beheaded and I witnessed it. … I saw six jihadists demanding that a Christian woman and her daughter become their wives. The daughter was about 12 to 13-years-old.”
“I told the jihadists forcing women is forbidden in Islam and children can't be touched under any circumstances. They loaded their guns in my face and told me to leave,” Omer added.
A local Islamic State judge told Omer he was wrong, that 13-year-olds — and younger — were fair game for sex, because “prophet Muhammad married his wife, Aisha, when she was only 9 years old.”
Omer said he was initially tricked into joining the Islamic State following an attempt to join the more moderate Free Syrian Army and parted ways with the group earlier this year.
The British newspaper the Independent earlier this month conveyed the testimony of a 17-year-old Yazidi girl who was kidnapped by the Islamic State and then raped by her captors. She told an Italian journalist by phone from the place she is being held that there are three "rooms of horror" where the militants take turns raping the girls throughout the day.
“They treat us like slaves. We are always ‘given’ to different men. Some arrive straight from Syria,” she told La Repubblica.
“Part of me would like to die immediately, to sink beneath the ground,” the girl said. “But another part that still hopes to be saved, and to be able to hug my parents once more.”
Foreign Policy magazine last week described the scope of rape carried out by the Islamic State group as “industrial scale.”
“IS claims to be a religious organization, dedicated to re-establishing the caliphate and enforcing codes of modesty and behavior from the time of Muhammad and his followers,” Foreign Policy observed. “But this is rape, not religious conservatism. IS may dress up its sexual violence in religious justifications, saying its victims violated Islamic law, or were infidels, but their leaders are not fools. This is just another form of warfare.”