Sex Slavery In The Islamic State – Practices, Social Media Discourse, And Justifications; Jabhat Al-Nusra: ISIS Is Taking Our Women As Sex Slaves Too

Aug 18th, 2015 | By | Category: Weekly Washington Updates
ISIS sex slave price list.

ISIS sex slave price list.

By: Y. Yehoshua, R. Green, and A. Agron*

The following report is a complimentary offering from MEMRI’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM).


Sex slavery has been a contentious topic in the Islamic State (ISIS) narrative since the group’s kidnapping of Yazidi women at Sinjar, Iraq in June and July of 2014, with ISIS fighters and supporters quickly denying that the women were being sexually exploited. The narrative took a turn when ISIS publicly acknowledged that fighters in the organization were keeping sex slaves, in the fourth issue of its official English-language magazine Dabiq, published October 12, 2014,[1] basing the justification for doing so on religious interpretation.

ISIS fighters and supporters openly discuss the topic on social media, for example talking about which women may be legitimately enslaved according to Islamic religious precepts. These social media conversations also reveal information on where and under what conditions the women are being held, on the going prices for them, and even on other issues relating to them – such as possible trafficking in human organs.

However, ISIS firmly believes in the benefit of the practice for slaves as well as for masters, as well as for society as a whole, and holds that the slaves gain much from their enslavement because in this way they are exposed to Islam and may convert. Among these promoters of sex slavery are numerous female ISIS members and supporters, who tout it both via social media and in articles in ISIS publications.

ISIS is aware that the issue of sex slavery is highly sensitive, particularly in the West, so it also uses it openly so as to threaten and provoke its enemies. For example, the ninth issue of Dabiq, published May 21, 2015, featured an article that included a scenario in which First Lady Michelle Obama would be sold at the slave market.

While ISIS and its proponents condone and encourage sex slavery, there is considerable disagreement over who exactly may be enslaved. The group insists that it does not enslave Muslim women, but the discussions on the various social media show a different picture.

There are indications that Muslim women from groups that ISIS accuses of being apostates or infidels are also taken as slaves – such as Shi’ites and even Sunni Muslims who disagree with the ISIS ideology. Furthermore, there are also allegations that Muslim women are being taken as sex slaves by Kurdish fighters.

The issue of sex slavery is also the cause of great tension between ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN). JN members and pro-JN clerics have accused ISIS of taking the wives of Jabhat Al-Nusra members as sex slaves – an accusation denied by ISIS. Social media discussions by JN operatives show that JN opposes sex slavery, based on opinions by sheikhs whom they see as top religious authorities, such as Abu Qatada Al-Falastini who vehemently opposes sex slavery and is very critical of fISIS for endorsing it. JN holds that taking non-Muslim women as sex slaves will prompt retaliation in kind by the enemies of the Muslims, and some JN members even consider sex slavery rape, which is a serious crime in Islam.

The following report will review official ISIS statements on this topic as well as some discourse on social media from ISIS supporters and members from the West. It will also include the JN perspective on the issue, also from discussions on social media, and will illustrate the dispute between the two main rebel groups operating in Syria today.

Official ISIS Statements Acknowledging The Taking Of Sex Slaves

ISIS Publications: Sex Slavery  Is Divine Punishment, Reduces Prostitution

As noted, in the fourth issue of its magazine Dabiq, ISIS officially acknowledged its policy on slaves and asserted that this beneficial practice will reduce deviant behaviors. According to the magazine, numerous contemporary scholars believe that the abandonment of this institution has led to an increase in adultery and fornication, and gives the example of a servant in a Muslim home: “Muslim families who have hired maids to work at their homes face the fitnah [temptation] of prohibited khalwah [seclusion] and resultant zina [prostitution] occurring between the man and the maid – whereas if she were his concubine, this relationship would be legal.”[2]

An article titled “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” in this issue of Dabiq, explains that ISIS has extensively explored the religious justification regarding the policy towards Yazidis. Numerous scholars and sources were consulted, it stated: “Prior to the taking of Sinjar, Shariah students in the Islamic State were tasked to research the Yazidis to determine if they should be treated as an originally mushrik [polytheists] group or one that originated as Muslims and then apostatized, due to many of the related Islamic rulings that would apply to the group, its individuals, and their families.

Because of the Arabic terminologies used by this group to describe themselves or their beliefs, some contemporary Muslim scholars have classified them as possibly an apostate sect, not an originally mushrik religion, but upon further research it was determined that this group is one that existed since the pre-Islamic Jahilyyah [ignorance], but became ‘islamisized’ by the surrounding Muslim population, language, and culture, although they never accepted Islam nor claimed to have adopted it. The apparent origin of the religion is found in the Magianism of Ancient Persia, but reinterpreted with elements of Sabianism, Judaism, and Christianity, and ultimately expressed in the heretical vocabulary of extreme Sufism.

“Accordingly, the Islamic state dealt with this group as the majority of fuqaha[scholars] have indicated how mushrikin should be dealt with. Unlike the Jews and Christians, there was no room for jizyah payment. Also, their women could be enslaved unlike female apostates who the majority of the fuqaha say cannot be enslaved and can only be given an ultimatum to repent, or face the sword.”

The ninth issue of Dabiq, published May 21, 2015, included a piece titled “Sex Slaves or Prostitutes?” by a woman, Umm Summayyah Al-Muhajirah, rebuking ISIS supporters who had initially rushed to deny that ISIS militants had revived the archaic practice of enslavement of women for sex.

She wrote: “But what really alarmed me was that some of the Islamic State supporters (may Allah forgive them) rushed to defend the Islamic State – may its honor persist and may Allah expand its territory – a[f]ter the kafir media touched upon the State’s capture of the Yazidi women. So the supporters started denying the matter as if the soldiers of the Khilafah had committed a mistake or evil.”

She also reasoned that slavery is divine punishment, writing: “Indeed when slavery befalls a people, they have left Allah’s favor, so Allah has no need for them.” At the same time, she stressed that even though some “devious and wicked slave-girls” had been peddling horror stories of their mistreatment in Muslim captivity, becoming enslaved to a Muslim is actually a blessing for them, because in this way they can be led to Islam.[3]

Umm Summayyah Al-Muhajirah then went on to denounce the Western condemnation of saby (enslavement) as hypocrisy, because there is prostitution in the West: “A prostitute in your lands comes and goes, openly commiting sin. She lives by selling her honor, within the sight and hearing of the deviant scholars from whom we don’t hear even a faint sound.”

Official ISIS Document Offers Fighters Guidelines On Treatment of Slaves

In late 2014, the Research and Fatwa Department of the Islamic State released a pamphlet on the topic of female captives and slaves. The pamphlet, dated Muharram 1436 (October/November 2014) and printed by the ISIS publishing house Al-Himma Library, was titled Su’al wa-Jawab fi al-Sabi wa-Riqab (“Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves”).

It details what is permissible sexually, and clarifies that ISIS leans towards the general consensus that forbids sex with apostate women (i.e., Muslim women who do not adhere to ISIS dogma).[4] The pamphlet specifies that female slaves are women “from among ahl al-harb [people of war] who have been captured by Muslims.”

While the pamphlet touches on which females can be taken as slaves, there is a considerable gray area regarding this issue; this report will examine the issue in further detail later. The pamphlet states: “There is no dispute among the scholars that it is permissible to capture unbelieving women [who are characterized by] original unbelief [kufr asli], such as the kitabiyat [women from among the People of the Book, i.e. Jews and Christians] and polytheists. However, [the scholars] are disputed over [the issue of] capturing apostate women. The consensus leans towards forbidding it, though some people of knowledge think it permissible. We [ISIS] lean towards accepting the consensus…” The language addressing this issue leaves leeway for interpretation. “Leaning towards a consensus” is not necessarily a prohibition, nor does it render acts that stray from this interpretation subject to punishment or condemnation.

It should be pointed out that female slaves are also given to the wives of ISIS fighters. While women have not been vocal about this on social media, it can be assumed that the slaves perform domestic chores. One item in the pamphlet addresses the question, “May a man have intercourse with the female slave of his wife?” This, the pamphlet states, forbidden: “A man may not have intercourse with the female slave of his wife, because [the slave] is owned by someone else.”

Read the rest of this thoroughly documented study at

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