Fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) are arbitrarily detaining, raping, ill-treating, torturing, and forcibly marrying Sunni Arab women and girls in areas under their control in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
In January 2017, HRW interviewed four women who said they had been detained by ISIS in 2016 for periods between three days and a month.
A fifth woman said an Islamic State fighter, her cousin, forced her to marry him and then he raped her. A sixth woman said that ISIS fighters destroyed her home as punishment after her husband escaped ISIS and tried to forcibly marry her. Five of the six women said that fighters beat them.
Another woman said that in April 2016, she tried to escape Hawija with her three children and a large group of other families. ISIS fighters captured the group and held 50 women in an abandoned house. The witness said that over the next month, one fighter raped her daily in front of her children. She suspected that many of the other women held with her were also being raped.
On the first day, Hanan, 26, said that an ISIS guard took her and her daughter, 8, and sons, 6 and 3, to a separate room. ISIS fighters told her she was an apostate because her husband had fled ISIS-controlled territory and that she needed to remarry the local ISIS leader. She told them: “Kill me, because I refuse to do that.”
“The same guy raped me every day for the next month without a blindfold, always in front of my children. My daughter suffers from an intellectual disability so she doesn’t really understand what she saw, but my older son brings it up often. I don’t know what to do,” she said.
A month after she was captured, Hanan’s father was able to locate her and gave ISIS a car and paid $500 for her release, she said. He was forced to sign a document stating that if she escaped Islamic State-controlled territory, he would be killed. The ISIS fighter who had been raping her said he wanted to marry her, but she and her father refused.
In January 2017, Hanan said that she escaped with the rest of her family to Kirkuk. She said she did not know what happened to the other women, but heard from a woman from Hajj Ali’s family that she had been forced to marry her rapist.
“Little is known about sexual abuse against Sunni Arab women living under ISIS rule,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “We hope that the international community and local authorities will do all they can to give this group of victims the support they need.”
“ISIS victims of gender-based violence suffer the consequences of their abuse long after they have managed to escape.” Fakih added.
“Their care and rehabilitation requires a multifaceted response, with authorities providing the needed medical and psychosocial support and working to stamp out stigma around sexual violence within the wider community,” she concluded.