Women and girls living in areas of Iraq and Syria that have fallen under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, have been deliberately targeted for brutality by these militants, and have suffered terribly at their hands.
Wherever ISIL has seized control, it has imposed a strict code on women that includes confining women to their homes unless accompanied by a male relative, as well as the wearing of a black, full-coverage robe, face veil and gloves. ISIL’s all-female militia unit, al-Khansaa Brigade, has been formed to enforce these requirements on Iraqi and Syrian women.
But even worse, women have been arbitrarily murdered by shooting, torture, or stoning. Every day, women and children, especially those from minority communities, face the threat of being abducted. In fact, over the past two months, some 1,500 to 4,000 women and children, some as young as 12, have been abducted in Iraq by ISIL terrorists.
As Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Catherine Russell wrote in a recent opinion piece, “While captive, these women and children have been tortured, raped, given to ISIL thugs as ‘brides,’ or kept as sex slaves. Some have committed suicide to avoid sexual enslavement. Others have been forced to watch as ISIL beat their children to coerce the women into converting to Islam. Some have simply been executed. Hundreds of women and girls have been taken from Iraq to ISIL camps in Syria and never heard from again.”
According to survivors who managed to escape ISIL’s clutches, the women are given a choice: those who convert to Islam are sold as ‘brides’ to Islamist fighters. Those who do not convert face daily rape and even death.
Ambassador Russell noted: “The de-humanization of women and girls is central to ISIL's campaign of terror, through which it destroys communities, rewards its fighters and feeds its evil. A coalition that fights ISIL must also fight this particularly egregious form of brutality.”
“As we galvanize an international coalition to work with the newly formed Iraqi government to confront the evil represented by these extremists, we need to ensure ISIL's horrendous treatment of women and girls is front and center.”