Aki Peritz and Tara Maller want to know why ISIS’s use of rape and sexual slavery as weapons of war isn’t getting more press:
The Islamic State’s (IS) fighters are committing horrific sexual violence on a seemingly industrial scale: For example, the United Nations last month estimated that IS has forced some 1,500 women, teenage girls, and boys into sexual slavery. Amnesty International released a blistering document noting that IS abducts whole families in northern Iraq for sexual assault and worse. Even in the first few days following the fall of Mosul in June, women’s rights activists reported multiple incidents of IS fighters going door to door, kidnapping and raping Mosul’s women.
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. 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.
Even women and girls who escape these horrors still face sexual exploitation in refugee camps. Chandra Kellison reports on what she observed while working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon this summer:
Three-quarters of those displaced in Lebanon are women and children who have lost a family member to war and remain vulnerable inside and outside of their new community. A generation of Syrian kids have the far-away gazes of battle-hardened soldiers returning from war. Displaced girls, especially, face the triple jeopardy of war, domestic violence and attacks from neighboring men. Only the immediate threat of war diminishes during the journey from Damascus to Beirut. Their new normal is neighbors, single women, engaging in survival sex with a series of resourceful men and widows pretending to call husbands who are really dead, all in a bid to seem less vulnerable to kidnappers, harassers, and attackers in their Lebanon. …
Not even the most fertile imagination could have conjured a better monster-in-the-dark than IS. The Brothers Grimm could not compete with stories spreading from city to city of savages that force children to use severed heads as soccer balls. By comparison, the terror caused by IS had reduced the perceived danger of a few opportunists who punch down the dignity and emotional integrity of refugee women and girls through offers that cannot be refused, because the needs of their families are too dire.