Islamic State publication seeks to justify slavery and sexual abuse

Demonstrators rally against the Islamic State militant group, also known by the acronym ISIS, outside the White House on Aug. 16.
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

In the latest edition of an English-language magazine published by Islamic State, the militants justify forcing ethnic Yazidi women into sexual slavery – a practice they say is encouraged under Islamic law.

An article titled “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour” by the group exults in the enslavement and rape of women from the Yazidi religious minority captured in Iraq after their husbands or fathers were killed or taken prisoner. The story appears in the fourth edition of a slickly produced online magazine called Dabiq.

The article represents the most blatant admission to date by Islamic State that its fighters, who have seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria, have enslaved and sexually abused captured women. Media reports and human rights groups have quoted Yazidi refugees as saying that sexual slavery is practiced by the group.


“One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar – the infidels – and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the sharia, or Islamic law,” the article says in English.

The “hour” in the article’s headline refers to the Islamic belief in a Day of Judgment. Other Muslims have condemned the militants’ extreme religious interpretations as perversions of Islam.

The article refers to Yazidis, a Kurdish community whose beliefs are linked to Zoroastrianism, as “a pagan minority” of “devil worshipers.”

“Their creed is so deviant from the truth that even cross-worshiping Christians for ages considered them devil worshipers and Satanists,” the article says.

The article is written in a florid style, with ornate references to the Koran, the Islamic holy book, and to Islamic teachings. The 56-page magazine uses the format and graphics of a polished online publication, one clearly aimed at potential recruits among English-speaking Westerners.

The authors describe the treatment of Yazidi women and children after they were captured following Islamic State battlefield victories in Iraq. The article refers to the captives as “slaves.”

“The Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the sharia amongst the fighters of the Islamic State . . . after one-fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State authority to be divided as khums,” or required payment of spoils of war to a caliph, the article says.

It continues, “The enslaved Yazidi families are then sold by the Islamic State soldiers.”

The authors claim that the militants obey religious strictures that prohibit separating children from their mothers. They also claim that some of the women have freely converted to Islam.


The article warns against criticizing the form of sexual slavery practiced by the militants.

“One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar [apostates] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the sharia that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the prophet [Muhammad] . . . and thereby apostatizing from Islam,” the article says.

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch released a report describing Islamic State abuses of captured Yazidis, including forced marriages and sexual assaults. Based on interviews with displaced Yazidis, detainees and former captives, the report says some young women and teenage girls were separated from their families and forced to marry Islamic State fighters.

“The Islamic State’s litany of horrific crimes against the Yazidis in Iraq only keeps growing,” Fred Abrahams, a special advisor at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “We heard shocking stories of forced religious conversions, forced marriage, and even sexual assault and slavery – and some of the victims were children.”

The systematic abduction and abuse of Yazidi civilians may amount to crimes against humanity, the organization said. More than 500,000 Yazidis and other religious minorities have fled Islamic State attacks in northern Iraq since June, according to the United Nations.

A 17-year-old girl identified as Adlee told researchers that a “big bearded man” selected her as she cowered on the lap of a woman among a group of young women offered up to Islamic State fighters.


“The man looked at me and said, ‘You are mine,’ and he quickly took me to his big military vehicle,” Adlee said, according to the report.

She and another young woman were taken to a house in Fallouja in western Iraq and were beaten and slapped, she said.

“As much as we could, we didn’t let them touch our bodies,” Adlee said. “Everything they did, they did by force.”

Adlee said she and the other woman managed to escape after two days.

A 15-year-old girl identified as Rewshe, who escaped Sept. 7, told researchers that she and her 14-year-old sister were sold in the Syrian town of Raqqah, an Islamic State stronghold. Rewshe was sold to a Palestinian fighter who had joined the militants.

The Palestinian told her that he had paid $1,000. Her sister was sold later that night to another fighter.

Rewshe said she was taken to an apartment, where she fended off the man’s sexual attack and escaped through an unlocked door while he slept.


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