By Robert Mackey
15 Oct, 2014
In the latest edition of the Islamic State militant group’s glossy magazine, posted online this week, its propagandists admitted for the first time that women and girls of the Yazidi faith captured in Iraq had been treated as slaves and forced to marry fighters.
The treatment of the women — which appears to corroborate witness accounts from captives who escaped areas that fell under militant control in Iraq — was described and defended in an article with the headline “The Revival of Slavery” in the new issue of the magazine, Dabiq, published Sunday.
According to the anonymous author of the article, students of Islamic law in the militant group decided that the enslavement of Yazidi women and girls, and their use as “concubines,” was justified because their esoteric faith makes them “pagans” whose religion needs to be eradicated from the Muslim world. “Their continual existence to this day is a matter that Muslims should question as they will be asked about it on Judgment Day,” the author wrote.
“Their creed is so deviant from the truth that even cross-worshipping Christians for ages considered them devil worshippers and Satanists,” the article added.
Members of the religious minority who fled the militants’ advance in northwestern Iraq in August told investigators from the United Nations that up to 500 Yazidi women were “herded” into the town of Tal Afar in August, before about 150 of them were sent to Syria to be given to Islamic State fighters or sold into sexual slavery.
The frank admission by the militant group’s propaganda arm coincided with the release of a Human Rights Watch report, based on similar testimony from dozens of relatives of Yazidis still being held by the militants, 16 captives who escaped and two women currently in detention who managed to speak to researchers by telephone.
Witnesses also told the researchers that captured men were forced to convert to Islam and that some boys were taken away to be indoctrinated and trained as fighters. “We heard shocking stories of forced religious conversions, forced marriage, and even sexual assault and slavery — and some of the victims were children,” Fred Abrahams, a Human Rights Watch adviser, said in the report.
The rights group’s report was accompanied by video of escaped captives and relatives of those still in detention describing their ordeal.
“They were hitting us and slapping us to make us submit to them,” recalled a 17-year-old girl who managed to escape after being taken to the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad. “As much as we could, we didn’t let them touch our bodies,” she said. “Everything they did, they did by force.”