ISIS, also known as the Islamic State Group, has been using terror to conquer and fight against those who don’t share their militant Islamic beliefs for a few years now. From beheadings to bombings, it seems as if they are making news every week, touting their own accomplishments of death and torture on YouTube and other social media outlets.
Another way they have enforced their laws and brought terror to the areas that they control is the systematic abuse of women and girls through sex trafficking. A disheartening article in the New York Times published over the weekend reveals that ISIS is now forcing their sex slaves to take birth control pills or get injections to prevent them from becoming pregnant. Why? The New York Times says “According to an obscure ruling in Islamic law cited by the Islamic State, a man must ensure that the woman he enslaves is free of child before having intercourse with her.”
For the young women and girls enslaved, it’s a torturous catch-22: they are spared the horror of bearing their captor’s child, but if they never get pregnant, they will never get a break from the daily rape and torture, from being sold and re-sold when one captor tires of them, from waking up every day to know that the worst kind of pain and abuse are in your imminent future, from knowing that the next day holds only more of the same.
The New York Times interviewed 37 women and girls who had escaped from ISIS’ hands, and what they had to say is almost too much to bear. All of the women are members of the Yazidi religious minority overrun and captured by ISIS almost two years ago. One 16-year-old girl, identified only by her initial M., says she was sold a total of 7 times. She says she feared sunset every evening because she knew that meant she was moments away from being raped. And although she says she was “tormented by” the thought of becoming pregnant with her captor’s child, it turns out that was an unnecessary fear. At the time she didn’t know what they were, but she was given birth control pills by her captor and had to take them in front of him every day. Another captor gave her injections to make sure she wouldn’t conceive before he began raping her.
Another escaped sex slave, age 18, was escorted to the hospital for a pregnancy test by her captor’s mother of all people. The older woman then delivered the girl to her son, saying the pregnancy test was negative, freeing her son up to rape his captive repeatedly, which he did. When that ISIS fighter was tired of the girl, he gave her as a gift to his brother. Young women, made in the image of God, being sold and gifted, abused like objects, treated as worthless…it’s knowledge I can hardly stand to know.
As a woman and a mom, these girls’ stories break my heart into a thousand pieces. I can’t help but wonder if that woman who delivered a sex slave to her son has a daughter of her own as well. How can she support a version of a religion that promotes the systematic rape and abuse of other women? Does she have a choice, or does she look on the Yazidi girls as deserving of the treatment because they don’t follow ISIS’ version of Islam?
The New York Times article was hard to read, but I think it is an important read for Christians. Now more than ever, we need to pray that God will bring ISIS down, that he will free these girls and the thousands like them from their daily torture, and that Christ will return soon to restore peace on earth. I HATE that we live in a world where WOMEN suffer such abuse simply because of their gender. I will be remembering these Yazidi women and girls in prayer as we lead up to Easter, a celebration of Christ’s sacrifice that make ALL of this right…will you join me?