The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reports that, in the Mosul markets where ISIS sells abducted children and women, "attaching price tags to them," it found that the buyers were local youths who were being recruited as jihadis. Amnesty International's December report confirms that buyers are largely local Iraqi and Syrian men. The involvement of their former neighbors is a factor driving many Iraqi Christians and Yizidis to emigrate from the region.
No female is considered too young; only women over forty are let go or released for ransom. Amnesty reported that some slaves were "just babies." Du'a said one of the girls penned up with her was seven months-old. Another 21-year-old escaped slave said that, while detained for sale, a guard took another younger captive into the bathroom and raped her; she was nine years-old. ISIS guidelines price Christian and Yizidi 9 year-olds at $172.ISIS guidelines price Christian and Yizidi 9 year-olds at $172.
A toddler brings equal value. A Christian woman, whose family could not flee Qaraqosh when ISIS invaded because her husband is blind, told Wolf that they came to her house, shouting, "Convert or we will kill you." An ISIS militant snatched from her lap Christina, her three-year-old daughter. The mother later learned during a furtive cell phone call from Rana, an enslaved Christian woman, that she had cared for Christiana while they were detained with other enslaved women until the baby was taken away.
A Dabiq article asserts that from Sinjar in Iraq "one fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State's authority." ISIS uses the slaves in caliphate bordellos run by British women—members of the al Khanssaa Brigade, an all-women religious police. Farah Ispahani, a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow of the National Endowment for Democracy and a former Member of Parliament in Pakistan, studies ISIS women volunteers. One of the few of these to mention the sex slavery is "Umm Sumayyah al-Muhajirah," who argues that taking slaves through war is a "great prophetic Sunnah containing many divine wisdoms and religious benefits." Dabiq identifies one such benefit: it saves men "who cannot afford marriage to a free woman [who] finds himself surrounded by temptation towards sin." It explains that "the desertion of slavery had led to an increase in adultery/fornication because the sharia alternative to marriage is not available."
Over 600 Yizidi girls, one by one, have been redeemed by private efforts with KRG help, according to a July 7 interview with Vian Dakhil. Two more Yizidi girls were freed from enslavement in Mosul, on July 14. Conspicuously absent in the rescue operation, Dakhil notes, was the Iraqi government.
After a spate of reporting on the Yizidis last fall, the Islamic State's slave practice has received scant attention. The Wilson Center's Middle East director Halleh Isfandiari observes that "Arab and Muslim governments, though loud in their condemnation of ISIS as a terrorist organization, have been silent on its treatment of women." The reaction of the White House and Congress has been muted as well. The State Department's 2015 Sex Trafficking report, released on July 27, devotes barely two paragraphs out of 380 pages to the Islamic State's institutionalization of sex slavery in the past year.
Uncharacteristically, ISIS, too, seems a bit self-restrained about broadcasting this particular abomination, which may account for some of the world's silence. ISIS issued rules last December regulating—though not banning—sexual relations with another's slaves, with slaves who are sisters, and with pre-pubescent slave girls. It hasn't produced any slick videos of its slave auctions or bordellos. After YouTube showed jihadis joking about trading their Glocks for sex slaves, and of a British schoolboy-turned-ISIS-militant leering about the hundreds of women slaves in Syria, ISIS ordered a stop to tweeting slave photos.
Once legal, chattel slavery has been abolished worldwide as a matter of law. To the extent that it exists in the world's darkest corners, it does so as a criminal activity and, as such, is condemned by society at large. As the tribute vice pays to virtue, that remains true even where governments allow slavery to continue with impunity. The Islamic State's revival of what it purports to be state-institutionalized slavery against Yizidi and Christian women needs to be vigorously condemned, both as a component of religious genocide every bit as horrifying as beheadings, and in its own right.
This column was originally published in The American Interest.