The Islamic State has been accused of the systematic kidnapping and rape of thousands of women – some as young as 12. Many of the victims are handed over to militants as rewards or “war spoils.” Others are sold as sex slaves.
ISIS leaders believe that sexual slavery was prevalent during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad and have thus made the despicable practice an important part of the group’s operations. Most victims are Yazidi girls that were captured when ISIS militants sacked their ancestral homeland on Mount Sinjar in August 2014. A good number have escaped, but thousands remain as prisoners.
The minority religion has about half a million followers in Iraq. Much of this population has been displaced and has found shelter in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Still, ISIS managed to capture nearly 5,000 Yazidi men and women during the summer of 2014. Of those, roughly 2,000 have managed to escape.
After their escape, nearly 1,000 Yazidi rape victims visited a UN-supported clinic in Iraq. A gynecologist working there reported that only 5% of them had become pregnant during captivity. Sex slavery typically leads to waves of undesired pregnancies, but this has not been the case with ISIS.
According to the New York Times, the Islamic State enforces “oral and injectable contraception” to prevent these women and girls from becoming pregnant and to maintain its supply of sex slaves. “In at least one case, a woman was forced to have an abortion in order to make her available for sex, and others were pressured to do so.”
Birth control is a modern solution to an archaic problem. According to an old Islamic Law that ISIS follows, a man must be sure that a woman he enslaves is not pregnant before having sex with her. Even sex with children is acceptable under the ancient law.
According to the escaped Yazidi women who agreed to speak with the New York Times, girls knew they were about to be sold when they were forced to give a urine sample (pregnancy test). A negative result would mean continued rape, but a positive result would mean they were carrying their abuser’s baby.
“No one wants to carry the child of their enemy,” says Ahlam, one of the women who agreed to an interview with the Times. The middle-aged woman was deemed unattractive and used as an interpreter instead of a sex slave. Her children weren’t so lucky.