Middle East Crisis
A Full Picture of ISIS’ Brutality

A piece in the NYT today about ISIS’ theology of rape traces similar ground to Nina Shea’s piece on the group’s sex slavery in our own pages late last month. But the NYT account only gives a partial picture, for it downplays something that Shea’s piece highlights, namely the vulnerability of “People of the Book”—which includes Christians—to ISIS’ sexuality brutality:

The Islamic State’s sex trade appears to be based solely on enslaving women and girls from the Yazidi minority. As yet, there has been no widespread campaign aimed at enslaving women from other religious minorities, said Samer Muscati, the author of the recent Human Rights Watch report. That assertion was echoed by community leaders, government officials and other human rights workers.

Mr. Barber, of the University of Chicago, said that the focus on Yazidis was likely because they are seen as polytheists, with an oral tradition rather than a written scripture. In the Islamic State’s eyes that puts them on the fringe of despised unbelievers, even more than Christians and Jews, who are considered to have some limited protections under the Quran as “People of the Book.”

But ISIS has issued a fatwa that allows Christians, just as much as Yizidis, to be enslaved, and there are cases on record of Christians falling victim to the practice. Here’s Shea:

The Fatwa Department of the Islamic State made clear that the females of the “People of the Book,” including Christians, can be enslaved for sex as well, though Muslim “apostates” cannot. The number of Christian sex slaves is unknown. Three—Rana, Rita, and Christina—are publicly known. In March, 135 women and children were among those taken captive, from 35 Christian villages along Syria’s Khabour River. Their families, unable to afford the $23 million ransom demand, were told by ISIS, “They belong to us now.” The older women were released; the younger ones may be enslaved, though this has not been confirmed […]

Under rules for “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour [of Judgment],” Dabiq gives a theological justification for selling women as war booty: “The enslaved Yizidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers as the polytheists were sold by the [Prophet’s] companions.” It also cites more recent precedents: namely, the “enslavement of Christian women and children in the Philippines and Nigeria by the Mujahidin there.”

We’re glad to see more attention brought to this issue, but for a full picture of ISIS’ practices, we recommend reading Shea’s whole piece.

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