Jihadi bride: ISIS advancing on sexual exploitation

Reuters/Rodi Said
Though sexual exploitation seems to be a common by-product of war and battles, it has never taken place in the Islamic history until now, and it is not acceptable within Islam, says Henna Rai, activist on sex trafficking and female emancipation issues.

The UN has revealed what Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) does to women when it gains control of new territory: rape, slavery, sadism and murder. The extremists run slave markets for girls they abduct in captured territories. The more valuable are priced higher; others can be sold “for as little as a pack of cigarettes.” Moreover, the kidnapping of teenage girls has become part of IS's method to recruit foreign fighters.

For more on this RT’s show “In the Now” asked Henna Rai, activist on sex trafficking and female emancipation issues who is working with the UK Home Office to prevent ISIS recruitment of young people.


RT:Women slaves - is it a powerful recruiting weapon?

Henna Rai: It’s a very difficult one to answer. In a nutshell – yes. Only because women tend to be more effective in convincing other women and it’s more likely that a woman would trust another woman on the other side of a camera suggesting that they were to join IS or become part of the movement and work for them because it’s the lifestyle that they should be aiming towards.

READ MORE: Teenage girls abducted by ISIS sold for 'as little as a pack of cigarettes' – UN envoy

RT:“This is a war that is being fought on the bodies of women,” that's how the UN envoy on sexual violence described the situation regarding ISIS. Does it happen in any war, women getting raped and exploited? How is it different here?

HR: When we look at the history of sexual exploitation, for example rape and pillage, they are all common factors and by-products of battles and wars. However, when you look at Islamic history and the manner in which wars and battles took place at the time of the Prophet - which was fully justified for various social and political reasons - not once will you see an example of the companions of the Prophet raping or pillaging or using women for sexual exploitation. They were given opportunities to be free, to work within various facets of Islam within Medina and the Islamic areas that were under the jurisdiction of the Prophet and his companions at the time of the caliphate. So it’s not something that is acceptable Islamicly and I don’t think humanity wise we can consider this as what happens anyway, so what’s the big deal. It always is a big deal. When it comes to women being objectified and exploited for political, social or any other gain – it is wrong.

RT:What about those women who leave their families to join ISIS voluntarily? Are they aware of these atrocities?

HR: The information is there for those who wish to see it. But a lot of the time many of these young women, particularly the cases we’ve had in the UK, have been young girls, pre-pubescent or pubescent girls who have just approached puberty around the age of 14 to 17, who are extremely vulnerable to influence, to grooming, which is what takes place through the IS networks that they link with. I don’t think these girls are ever aware of what the atrocities are and what the reality behind IS and its ideology is.

Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

RT:Do we know if the girl voluntarily joining IS are treated differently than women who are captured and then made sex slaves? Do we have any information on that?

HR: There have been various reports that have been released within the UK that many of the women that do go from here into a dating agency kind of organization where they get to choose the person they want to be the bride of, or want to spend their lives with as a jihadi bride. I think the girls here that choose to go there are perhaps considered a little bit more separate to those that they have taken into an almost slavery kind of situation by force, because these girls have made that choice and they are a little bit more aware of what they want. But at the same time, these girls have been brainwashed and groomed into believing that this is the right choice for them. So they are given almost a glamorous picture of what being a jihadi bride would consist and entail, and how their lives would be lived in a better way because they are under the misconception that they are doing things that are Islamicly justified and justified in the eyes of God. Whereas the girls, such as the Yazidi girls who have been taken as sex slaves, have no choice in the matter.

RT:US intelligence has revealed that ISIS wives are playing a big role in operations - they are often used as spies and informants - who are these women and is there a hierarchy?

HR: They have a very structured and organized system within those who choose to join their ranks. We’ve had reports that there has been a hierarchy system where women work as generals with women. They have a women police force that goes out and enforces IS ideology and the rules on the other women and other people who are kept specifically or recruited specifically to fulfill this role. They are exacting punishment on other women, tormenting and torturing other women on the behest of the male IS militants. So in a sense there is a kind of hierarchy there where you see people who have higher positions than others and those who are recruited as suicide bombers who go in specifically with the concept of being a suicide bomber and that’s their objective.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.