How does a jihadi know if it is permissible under Islamic State group law to take two sisters as slaves? And what are the rules concerning underage Yazidi captives? These questions and more are answered in a chilling new militant-issued pamphlet that doubles as a guide for frequently asked questions surrounding the treatment of female slaves.
The document, reportedly released by the Research and Fatwa Department of the Islamic State last month, is titled Su'al wa-Jawab fi al-Sabi wa-Riqab or "Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves," according to an English translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors terrorist activity in the region.
Questions posed in the document include: "Is it permissible to marry a Muslim [slave] or a kitabiyya [unbelieving women including Jews and Christians] female slave?" To which the answer is basically no, unless the militant thinks he would commit the "sin of fornication" with her.
Another issue raised in the guide involves the appropriate punishment for runaway slaves. This subject is a little murky as there is no set punishment, according to the militants' interpretation of Sharia, the strict form of Islamic law imposed under the group's self declared caliphate. Instead, "she is [to be] reprimanded [in such a way that] deters others like her from escaping," the authors write.
Other rules imposed by the extremist group declare that: fighters cannot have sex with or kiss each other's slaves, as these women belong to someone else; all militants must first purify their slaves' uteruses before having intercourse with her; and "it is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn't reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse."
There are also some surprising acts banned by the group that are discussed in the pamphlet, including the prohibition of beatings "for the purpose of achieving gratification or for torture" and hitting a slave's face. Militants are also not allowed to separate a mother from her prepubescent child, although it is "permissible to separate them if the children are grown."
Yazidis are part of a Kurdish minority group in Iraq that are among the most persecuted communities in the country. Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis have been displaced by the Islamic State's bloodied war across the region since it began this summer, and many have been forced to seek shelter in the Sinjar mountains and Kurdish-held areas in northern Iraq, according to the UN.
The UN has previously estimated that some 2,500 Yazidis, most of them women and children, are currently in Islamic State captivity, while researchers at the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program have put that number at 7,000.
Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism and counter terrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), has been conducting interviews in the region with dozens of Yazidi women and girls as young as 12 who were "sold" and forced into slavery after being captured by militants.
Many of the women recounted being separated from their families and hauled away in trucks, later being subject to beatings and rapes, forced to marry fighters, violently coerced into converting to Islam and even watched their friends and family members being murdered. Some of the accounts were detailed in a report HRW released in October.
Early last month, a video surfaced seemingly substantiating the claims. The footage purported to show militants lounging in a room and flippantly discussing how to buy and sell Yazidi women while laughing and joking.
Tayler told VICE News that while HRW could not independently verify the pamphlet, she was "not surprised" to learn of the reports and said the document was, "yet more evidence that the Islamic State is a depraved criminal organization seeking to cloak its atrocious acts in piety."
Yazidis, who practice an ancient religion with connections to Zoroastrianism, are "considered complete and utter infidels in a way that even Christians are not to ISIS," Tayler said, using the group's acronym. This makes the community even more vulnerable to militant attack, she said, adding: "People of every ethnicity and creed should condemn this act and call for the immediate release of all hostages."
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