By Sangwon Yoon
Islamic State extremists have herded hundreds of women to be given to its fighters in Syria as a reward or sold as sex slaves and have summarily executed women in professions, according to the United Nations.
About 500 women and girls of the Yezidi and Christian minority communities were given to Islamic State fighters or trafficked for sale in markets in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, according to a report published today by the UN mission in Iraq and the world body’s human-rights office in Geneva.
“Women and girls are brought with price tags for the buyers to choose and negotiate the sale. The buyers were said to be mostly youth from the local communities,” according to the 29-page report, which cites testimony from witnesses and surviving victims. “Apparently ISIL was ‘selling’ these Yezidi women to the youth as a means of inducing them to join their ranks.” ISIL is an acronym for Islamic State’s former name.
The report is the UN’s second official one on acts committed by the Sunni extremist group and its affiliates that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The beheading of two American journalists and a British aid worker helped trigger the formation of a U.S.-led international coalition that’s helping Kurdish and Iraqi government forces combat the extremist group.
The extremist militant group and its affiliates treat women “particularly harshly,” adding to a long list of “gross human-rights abuses” that include murder, physical and sexual assault, robbery and forced expulsion, according to the report.
Militants killed a female candidate in the general election in July and the next day abducted a candidate running for local office, the UN said in the report. Islamic State also ordered hospitals to instruct married women doctors to wear black, while unmarried females wore other colors so they are easily distinguishable.
The UN estimates that at least 8,493 civilians have died in the Iraqi conflict so far this year, and 1.8 million Iraqis remain uprooted from their homes.
“This report is terrifying,” Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s envoy to Iraq, said today in an e-mailed statement. He said hundreds of other allegations weren’t included because they hadn’t yet been sufficiently verified. “Iraqi leaders must act in unity to restore control over areas that have been taken over by ISIL and implement inclusive social, political and economic reforms,” he said.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN’s human rights chief, condemned the “staggering” array of abuses. He recommended that the Iraqi government accede to the Rome Statute, a treaty that established the International Criminal Court and requires all states that are parties to it to cooperate with the court on war crimes.
Zeid, a former Jordanian diplomat who is the first Arab and Muslim to hold the post, cited a Sept. 19 letter by 126 Muslim scholars to the head of Islamic State to emphasize that such acts aren’t endorsed or permitted by Islam.
The letter “clearly states that in Islam it is forbidden to kill the innocent, or to kill emissaries, ambassadors and diplomats — hence, also journalists and aid workers; torture and the reintroduction of slavery are also forbidden, as are forcible conversion, the denial of rights to women and a multitude of other acts being carried out,” Zeid said in an e-mailed statement.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in United Nations at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Walcott at [email protected] Larry Liebert, Mark McQuillan