In continuing to display how little the Islamic State values life and women, ISIS militants are buying and selling sexually enslaved girls and women for as cheap as a pack of cigarettes in hopes of attracting more men to the group, a United Nations envoy declared on Monday.
Zainab Bangura, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, told AFP that in order for ISIS to recruit more foreign fighters to join its military ranks, the caliphate continues to capture more girls and women in each new territory it conquers and then sells them at low prices.
"This is how they attract young men — 'we have women waiting [for] you, virgins that you can marry,'" Bangura said. "The foreign fighters are the backbone of the fighting."
Bangura, who recently toured through five Middle East countries and interviewed numerous women who were victimized by ISIS but managed to escape, explained that ISIS' jihad is fueled by the enslavement of women.
"They [ISIS militants] kidnap and abduct women when they take areas so they have — I don't want to call it a fresh supply, but they have new girls," Bangura, a native of Sierra Leone, asserted. "This is a war that is being fought on the bodies of women."
According to April's estimates, ISIS has approximately 25,000 foreign fighters. But not only does ISIS have "new girls" for foreign fighters to acquire once they reach the caliphate, ISIS' sex slaves are affordable and priced to meet even the poorest militant's budget.
Bangura said that captured women and girls are often forced to strip naked and are judged by ISIS militants who gauge how much they are to be sold for. The fighters price some girls as high as a few thousand dollars, while selling others for "as little as a pack of cigarettes," she stated.
"Some [females] were taken, locked up in a room — over 100 of them in a small house — stripped naked and washed," Bangura said. "They were then made to stand in front of a group of men who decided 'what you are worth.'"
After a girl is sold to an ISIS fighter, she is usually beaten, raped against her will and often sold or given away to another militant when the fighter is done abusing her. Should a sex slave refuse to give into her militant's brutal and abnormal sexual fantasies, she is beaten or sometimes tortured.
In May, Bangura explained that a 20-year-old sex slave was burned alive after she refused to perform an "extreme sex act."
"We heard one case of a 20-year-old girl who was burned alive because she refused to perform an extreme sex act," Bangura said. "We learned of many other sadistic sexual acts. We struggled to understand the mentality of people who commit such crimes."
Bangura also said that ISIS forces some captured women and girls into prostitution.
In a press briefing in early May, Bangura explained that one sex slave, who was sold to 20 different ISIS fighters before she escaped, was forced to undergo virginity repair surgery each time she was sold and raped by the next ISIS fighter.
"ISIL have institutionalized sexual violence and the brutalization of women as a central aspect of their ideology and operations, using it as a tactic of terrorism to advance their strategic objectives," Bangura said.
Bangura told AFP that ISIS wants to "build a society that reflects the 13th century," through its systemic sexual abuse of women, which she labeled as a "medieval" practice.
"Sexual violence by ISIL and other extremist groups arises from discrimination and dehumanization based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, political or religious identity, in particular the subordination of women and girls," Bangura wrote in an email to Women eNews. "Indeed, the same ideology and objectives that motivate Boko Haram to abduct women and girls in Nigeria, also spur ISIL to enslave women and girls in Syria and Iraq."
"Such violence has led to a number of harmful or negative coping mechanisms, such as the early marriage of girls by families that have no other means of protecting them, an increase in polygamy and "survival sex" by those with no economic alternatives, as well as the withdrawal and isolation of women and girls from education and public life," she added.