Violation of Gender Identities by the Islamic State
“The Islamic State is becoming victorious in Iraq, Syria, and everywhere. I swear we will divide America in two.”
These are not the words of Abu Bakir Al-Baghdadi; the leader of IS, and they are not the words of the spokesman of IS. These words are the words of an 11 years old kid who expressed his great enthusiasm when asked by Vice News about what he thinks about the Islamic State.
This statement along with a number of other statements that were made by kids makes you realize how serious the current happenings in Iraq and Syria are. Training kids to be the next leaders of the Islamic Caliphate proves that the leaders of the Islamic State have been preparing for this for a long time, and have every intention to establish their Caliphate.
IS (Formerly known as ISIS) has tens of thousands of members according to Dr. Hisham Al-Hashimi who’s an expert on this group. These members come from different nationalities including Iraqis, Kurds, Syrian, American, British, and Iranian.
Reports estimate the value of their assets and cash to a couple of billion dollars which they collected mainly from the oil fields they took over in Iraq and Syria, in addition to the money they got from the banks after controlling Mosul.
Since IS started their terrorist attacks in Iraq and Kurdistan on June of this year, nearly 3000 people have lost their lives, 4500 people have been wounded, and more than 550,000 people have been displaced, and forced to seek refuge in other safer neighboring mountains, villages and cities. And the different media channels have been actively covering these stories, and updating these numbers.
But what has not been covered as well as the previous numbers is the gender aspect of this crisis, and how this crisis affects people from different gender identities.
Since IS took control of the different areas in Iraq and Syria, they have been announcing different laws that women need to commit to. They started with ordering women to be fully covered, and describing the right dress code to be “Shapeless clothes that don’t show the body, covers the hands and feet, and without wearing perfume.”
The IS also stated that women shouldn’t walk in streets without being escorted by a male guardian. Furthermore, they legalized FGM, and came up with a number of other laws.
The ironic thing about these laws are the statements that were made by different IS leaders, comments like “I left Europe, my kids, and the beautiful women there to come and find honor, and fight” directly contradict what IS claims to be standing for which is the purity and security of women.
And maybe most people agree that the worst law of all is the one known as “Jihad Al-Nikah” which can be translated as “Jihad of sexual intercourse” which states that it’s every un-married woman’s duty to have sex with the warriors of IS to make up for not fighting, and to reward the Jihadist for their fights.
IS ordered all the families to present their un-married females regardless of their age, and expressed that anyone who wouldn’t commit to this law, or any of the other laws will be severely punished. In some cases, these girls and women were forced to marry the Jihadist in courts led by judges and executioners who follow the Islamic State.
Some people were able to escape the conflict areas choosing to face the unknown over staying and being violated in different ways, and those who were not able to escape have been killed or kidnapped.
According to different reports, including reports from the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, IS abducted at least 500 Christian women, and 300 Yazidi women, and have been using them as sex slaves who can be sold for as little as 250,000 Iraqi dinar. Statements from different locals who managed to escape, verified these reports and numbers.
The crisis also had an indirect impact on other people from different genders, as the violent attacks in Baghdad against LGBTIQ individuals, and sex workers have notably escalated, as the presence of the Islamic State empowered the local militias like Mahdi Army, and Asaeb Ahl-Alhaq that are based in Baghdad.
These militias started organizing different killing campaigns against gay people, and sex workers, and killed tens of them without being held accountable which consolidates the rumors that these militias are a part of ministry of interior of Iraq. In their latest campaign, Asaeb Ahl-Haq killed more than 30 gay people, and other than local NGOs like OWFI and Al-Amal Association, no media outlet spoke about these attacks.
Women have been one of the most vulnerable targets in this situation, but they have also been actively fighting against IS as a part of the Kurdish army also known as the Peshmarga who were the only forces fighting against IS until a couple of weeks ago. These women who are mainly fighting in Syria make up around 40% of 40,000 Peshmargas who are fighting in that area. They have been actively involved in rescuing people, getting them the help they need, and saving lives.
The last few weeks brought some admirable success for the Kurdish Peshmarga as they started reclaiming a number of the villages and areas that were controlled by IS, but we need to realize that this fight will not end if/when IS is defeated.
I believe these events will reflect heavily on the future of Iraq and Kurdistan, especially with the different ethnic, political, and social problems that emerged and sparked during these hardships.
By: Amir M. Ashour