Human Rights

Testimonies reveal the extent of sexual violence inflicted on women by ISIS


Harrowing stories of sexual abuse have emerged in the aftermath of war, which have revealed the extent of violence that ISIS inflicted on women in Iraq.

Women across Iraq and Syria have told of the heinous acts committed by ISIS militants during the group’s reign across large swaths of the region. Despite the defeat of ISIS, many have detailed the severe difficulty of moving beyond these events, especially with limited support for women across immediate post-conflict areas of the region.

Um Sari, a displaced Iraqi woman who used to work in a hospital in Mosul, recounts horrifying cases of sexual abuse that she witnessed during her time in the city.

She is just one of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian women who observed the sexual abuse perpetrated by the militants, resulting in a significant psychological and emotional impact on her life and the lives of many others.

“They brought a woman and slaughtered her brothers and her father before her eyes. She was a Yazidi from Sinjar,” said Um Sari. “Then, she married a militant and then she married his friend. After she gave birth to a child, she left her child and went.”

As a result of this and countless other cases, thousands of children are currently being held in camps throughout Iraq and Syria. These children born to ISIS militants are without official birth certificates or IDs as the Iraqi Government does not recognize any documents produced by ISIS. Only recently, the Iraqi Government announced that it would produce ID cards for the children, removing them from what has been termed a legal limbo.

For the women who married ISIS militants, however, the situation is more difficult. Authorities are still trying to ascertain the exact role that many women had under the group, while others profess their innocence, saying that they were forced to marry militants when the group entered their towns and cities.

Um Mohammed, who claimed that she was forced to marry an American ISIS militant, said that she is now subject to sexual abuse in a camp near the city of Mosul. “They accuse me of prostitution and question my honour,” said Um Mohammed.

While some steps have been taken by the central government to mitigate their suffering, local and international organisations say that the problems that this segment of society faces is worsening day after day, with women continuing to suffer from sexual exploitation, and the children risking further radicalisation.

“These women are Iraqi. The problem so far is that we have not seen a clear federal government strategy or a clear budget to address this issue,” said Bakhsan Zankana, the director of Women’s Affairs in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

With the defeat of ISIS in Mosul nearing the two-year mark, human rights experts say that unless a serious effort is made to resolve this situation, the country is at risk of another crisis in the future.