Mosul in Iraq is considered one of the most beautiful and important cities in the Middle East. Called Al-Faiha, which means paradise, it stands near the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh and has been been occupied since the reign of the Assyrians. With the recent arrival of ISIS, Mosul is anything but a paradise. The reports have been grim, as ISIS has proven to be the most brutal terrorist group the Middle East has had to endure. Along with mass beheadings and forced conversions, ISIS has dived into the world of sex trafficking.1
Minority religious groups, including Yazidis and Christians, tried to flee Mosul during the initial takeover. As they attempted to leave the city, women and young girls were captured and forced into marrying ISIS militants. These women and girls are offered as “rewards” for ISIS fighters and have become a significant tool in the recruitment of new jihadists.2 Hundreds of others are being held in a prison in Mosul where they are systematically raped and tortured before being sold as sex slaves for as little as $25. Some of the imprisoned women have been forced by militants to contact their families by phone and disclose the nature of their abuse.3 One woman reported that she was raped 30 times in just a few hours. Sources shared the woman’s desperate plea, “If you know where we are, please bomb us. There is no life after this. I’m going to kill myself anyway.”4 Tragically, ISIS’s invasive web of slavery and brutality is expanding. Reports indicate that between 1,500 and 4,000 women and girls have already been abducted.5
Although news of sex trafficking in Iraq is surfacing now because of the speed and terror with which ISIS is moving, the tragedy of sexual exploitation in Iraq is nothing new. The Middle East has had a severe sex trafficking issue for many years, fed by political instability and poverty. While many Muslims around the world are condemning the trafficking practices, ISIS is insisting that, according to Islamic theology, it is legitimate to capture and enslave women. In a new digital publication released by ISIS, an author states, “One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffa—the infidels—and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah, or Islamic law.”6
The trafficking situation in Mosul—and throughout the territory controlled by ISIS—is one unlike many others that exist. In Mosul we are seeing the confluence of multiple injustices at once: Islamic terrorism, ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, and sex trafficking combine to produce one of the most oppressive and exploitative environments imaginable.
This month we will be praying about the many atrocities that are taking place in Mosul, Iraq. These women and girls deserve to be treated with dignity. They deserve a life free from the injustice of forced marriages, repeated rapes, and being sold for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Please join us as we ask God to set the captives free from the grips of ISIS.
- Catherine Russell, “ISIL’s Abuse of Women and Girls Must Be Stopped,” DIPNOTE, Web, 12 September 2014, https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2014/09/12/isils-abuse-women-and-girls-must-be-stopped
- Nickolay Mladenov and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, “Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Iraq: 6 July – 10 September 2014”, Web, 26 September 2014, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/IQ/UNAMI_OHCHR_POC_Report_FINAL_6July_10September2014.pdf
- Ford Sypher, “Rape and Sexual Slavery Inside an ISIS Prison,” The Daily Beast, Web, 28 August 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/28/rape-and-sexual-slavery-inside-an-isis-prison.html
- John Hall, “Desperate Plight of Yazidi Woman,” MailOnline, Web, 21 October 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2801353/i-ve-raped-30-times-s-not-lunchtime-desperate-plight-yazidi-woman-begged-west-bomb-brothel-isis-militants-sold-sex-slavery.html
- Catherine Russell. Salma Abdelaziz,”ISIS States Its Justification for the Enslavement of Women,” CNN World, Web, 13 October 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/12/world/meast/isis-justification-slavery
- Salma Abdelaziz,”ISIS States Its Justification for the Enslavement of Women,” CNN World, Web, 13 October 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/12/world/meast/isis-justification-slavery