Contrary to popular belief, slavery still exists in the world. The UN has reported that millions of people are regularly traded and kept as slaves around the world for a number of reason, including sex trafficking which accounts for about 12.4 million of the slaves.
Zainab Bangura of the UN envoy on sexual violence spoke this week about the treatment of teenage girls who have been abducted by Islamic State Fighters in Iraq and Syria. It has been estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 girls are currently enslaved by the militant group and are subject to horrific sexual violence as a result.
The abduction of the girls work twofold, not only does it wipe out villages of those who do not support the Islamic State, but it also works to recruit foreign fighters. Foreign fighters are often lured to Iraq and Syria to fight for the Islamic State and are often promised virgins for marriage and women for pleasure. With these foreign fighters being the backbone for the Islamic State’s efforts, fighters have been flocking to Iraq and Syria in record numbers over the past eighteen months.
The real horror is the treatment of the girls who are taken from their homes after seeing the executions of the men in their village and being separated from their mothers. Girls are reportedly stripped naked, their virginity is examined and they are priced based on their age and level of prettiness. Virgins are especially sought after and are sent to Raqqa, the Islamic State stronghold where sheikhs, emirs and fighters choose which girls they want.
Extremely reminiscent of the Atlantic Slave Trade, girls are sold at auctions to men who often keep them for a few months, get tired of them, and send them back to market where some are sold for as little as a pack of cigarettes to as much as $1,000.
One group of women particularly at risk are Yazidis, who the Islamic State views as “devil worshippers” and they are subject to some of the most heinous acts of sexual violence. According to Bangura, a 20-year-old Yazidi girl was burned alive because she refused to perform an extreme sexual act.
The situations of the Yazidi girls and others who have been forced into sex trafficking under the Islamic State is terrifying and makes one think about Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the Chibok school girls and the fight that ensued and is still being fought to secure their safe arrival home. Although the situation seems bleak for people worldwide who are abducted into sex trafficking, the more that people know about it, the more that can be done.