The United Nations envoy on sexual violence detailed Monday how Islamic State militants are selling teenage girls into sexual slavery and inflicting horrific sexual violence on female abductees.
Zainab Bangura met with women and girls in April who had escaped from areas controlled by the insurgent group, and this week talked about what she had heard.
She explained how large groups of abducted girls were kept in cramped conditions, subjected to abuse and assigned monetary value by a group of militants before being sold. In one case, a 15-year-old girl was sold off to an IS leader in his 50’s who taunted her desire to commit suicide before raping her.
In some cases, teenage girls were sold in IS militant slave markets for “as little as a pack of cigarettes,” said Bangura. The group continues to run this slave trade as they abduct more women and girls in the territory they take over, she explained.
Bangura’s accounts are the latest in IS’ well-documented history of abhorrent sexual violence against women. A Human Rights Watch report released in April documented systematic rape and forced marriage of Yazidi minority women. Women and girls who escape also face continuing trauma from their experiences, and largely lack the psychosocial support required.
Yazidi religious leader Baba Sheikh has issued repeated calls for acceptance and reintegration of survivors of IS abuse, something that Bangura praised on Monday.
The UN has repeatedly condemned the use of sexual violence by IS, with Bangura stating last month that the group has “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 key strategic objectives.”
The group uses abducted women to attract young male foreign fighters who make up a significant portion of its forces, according to analysts. IS has also issued commandments and pamphlets on the proper protocol for slavery under its interpretation of Islamic Law.
Bangura stated that the exact number of women and girls enslaved by IS militants is not currently known.