×

ISIS is selling Yazidi women as sex slaves on popular apps

ISIS as part of tighten grips on captives is now selling Yazidi as sex slaves on popular messaging applications such as Telegram and Twitter

The ISIS has been posting advertisement to sell girls as young as 12-years-old as sex slaves through encrypted messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp.

One such kind of advertisement which was shared with The Associated Press by an activist with the minority Yazidi community, whose women and children are being held as sex slaves by the extremists reads, “Virgin. Beautiful. 12 years old… Her price has reached $12,500 and she will be sold soon.” The ad for the sex slave appeared in Arabic along with other ads for weapons, kittens and tactical gear.

The founders of both apps have repeatedly maintained that end-to-end encryption provides privacy to its users.

“We have zero tolerance for this type of behaviour and disable accounts when provided with evidence of activity that violates our terms. We encourage people to use our reporting tools if they encounter this type of behaviour,” Matt Steinfeld, a spokesman for WhatsApp, was quoted as saying by AP.

Telegram’s spokesperson said that they remove public ISIS channels from the app.

While the self-styled caliphate is losing territory, it is tightening its grip on the estimated 3,000 women and girls held as sex slaves. In a fusion of ancient barbaric practices and modern technology, ISIS sells the women like chattel on smart phone apps and shares databases that contain their photographs and the names of their “owners” to prevent their escape through IS checkpoints.

Perhaps the worst blow related to such instances was felt by the Yazidi community when ISIS took over Sinjar, Iraq in 2014, with as many as 3,000 of their women and children being held captive.

In a single day in August 2014, ISIS took away two dozen young women from Sinjar. One of them is Nazdar Murat, who was about 16 when she was taken away two years ago.  Her father and uncles were among about 40 people killed when ISIS took over the Sinjar area, the heart of the Yazidi homeland.

Inside an immaculately kept tent in a displaced persons camp outside the northern Iraqi town of Dahuk, Nazdar’s mother said her daughter managed to call once, six months ago.

“We spoke for a few seconds. She said she was in Mosul,” Murat told the AP. “Every time someone comes back, we ask them what happened to her and no one recognizes her. Some people told me she committed suicide.”

The family keeps the file of missing Yazidis on a mobile phone. They show it to those who have escaped the caliphate, to find out if anyone has seen her, and to other families looking for a thread of hope they’ll see their own missing relatives again.

Kurdistan’s regional government had been reimbursing impoverished Yazidi families who paid up to $15,000 in fees to smugglers to rescue their relatives, or the ransoms demanded by individual fighters to give up the captives. But the Kurdish regional government no longer has the funds. For the past year, Kurdistan has been mired in an economic crisis brought on by the collapse of oil prices, a dispute with Iraq’s central government over revenues, and the fallout from the war against the ISIS.

Even when ISIS retreats from towns like Ramadi or Fallujah, the missing girls are nowhere to be found.

ISIS has been maintaining detailed records of the women and children as it does of its fighters. The database of the slaves is reportedly shared with all checkpoints to make sure that they don’t escape, AP reported.

While organisations working to protect the Yazidis were earlier able to save on an average 134 people a month, the number has fallen to 39 in the last six weeks, as the ISIS has amped up its hold over the people and the Kurdish government is running out of money to save the captives. The government earlier used to compensate Yazidi families, who had to pay up to $15,000 to save their family members.

“The odds of rescue, however, grow slimmer by the day. The smuggling networks that have freed the captives are being targeted by ISIS leaders, who are fighting to keep the Yazidis at nearly any cost,” Andrew Slater of the non-profit group Yazda told the AP, This organisation helps document crimes against the community and helps those who have fled.

Earlier Kurdistan’s regional government had been helping the Yazidi families by paying money to smugglers to rescue their relatives, or the ransoms demanded by individual fighters to give up the captives. But the Kurdish regional government no longer has the funds. For the past year, Kurdistan has been mired in an economic crisis brought on by the collapse of oil prices, a dispute with Iraq’s central government over revenues, and the fallout from the war against the ISIS.

Even when ISIS retreats from towns like Ramadi or Fallujah, the missing girls are nowhere to be found.

“Rescues are slowing. They’re going to stop. People are running out of money, I have dozens of families who are tens of thousands of dollars in debt,” Slater said. “There are still thousands of women and kids in captivity but it’s getting harder and harder to get them out.”

Many girls tried to escape from the ISIS. But very few managed to return to relatives. Either ISIS kill them or again sell them to other people as sex slave.

One such sex slave who managed to escape was the 18-year-old Yazidi girl Lamiya Aji Bashar She escaped after attempting to flee at least four times. She was blinded after a landmine blew up near her as she was trying to escape. Her companions, 8-year-old Almas and Katherine, 20, were killed in the explosion.

Lamiya was abducted from Sinjar in 2014. Her parents are presumed dead. Somewhere, she said, her 9-year-old sister Mayada remains captive. One photo she managed to send to the family shows the little girl standing in front of an ISIS flag.

She has five sisters. All managed to escape and later were relocated to Germany. A younger brother, kept for months in an ISIS training camp in Mosul, also escaped and is now staying with other relatives in Dahuk, a city in the Iraqi Kurdish region.

Lamiya was repeatedly raped by ISIS members and sold to different people as sex slaves, including a doctor. “I managed in the end, thanks to God, I managed to get away from those infidels,” Lamiya told the AP from a bed at her uncle’s home in the northern Iraqi town of Baadre. “Even if I had lost both eyes, it would have been worth it, because I have survived them.”

Her uncle said the family paid local smugglers $800 to arrange Lamiya’s escape. She will be reunited with her siblings in Germany, but despite everything, her heart remains in Iraq.

“We had a nice house with a big farm … I was going to school,” she said. “It was beautiful.”

The Sunni extremists view the Yazidis as barely human. The Yazidi faith combines elements of Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion. Their pre-war population in Iraq was estimated around 500,000. Their number, today is unknown.

Another escapee, Nadia Mourad, had appeared before the US Congress and the European Parliament seeking aid for the ailing community, which had once numbered in 50,000. Now the number is unknown.

“Daesh (ISIS) is proud of what it’s done to the Yazidis,” she said to Parliament. “They are being used has human shields. They are not allowed to escape or flee. Probably they will be assassinated. Where is the world in all this? Where is humanity?”

The Yazidi people in Iraq are used not only as sex slaves, but also as human shields. NGOs working to rescue the people in captivity lament that despite victory over Fallujah or Ramadi, the girls are nowhere to be found when the terrorist group retreats.

Some passages of the Quran implicitly condone slavery. It also allows men to have sex with both their wives and “those they possess with their right hands,” taken by interpreters to refer to female slaves.

But in the 19th and early 20th centuries, most Muslim scholars backed the banning of slavery, citing Quranic verses that say freeing them is a blessing. Some hard-liners, however, continued to insist that under Shariah sex slavery must be permitted, though the Islamic State group is the first in the modern era to bring it into organised practice.

Top