Of all the atrocities committed by the Islamic State, using the rape of women and children as a tool to recruit more fighters is possibly the worst. In deeply conservative Muslim societies, casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden. The allure of being able to have sex on demand with a girl that cannot effectively resist is a very tempting offer to lure men from these societies to fight for the Islamic State.
The group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution last year. Most of the women and girls subjected to this brutal treatment are from Yazidi religious minority. The Islamic State introduced systematic sexual slavery after its fighters attacked the villages of the Yazidis near Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq in August 2014. According to the Islamic State, because the ones being raped practice a religion other than Islam, the Quran gives the fighters the right to rape them.
According to community leaders, 5,270 Yazidis were abducted last year. Some have managed to escape their captors, but it is estimated that more than 3,000 are still being held. The Yazidi women and girls are held in a network of warehouses, inspected and marketed in viewing rooms, and transported to their abusers on a dedicated fleet of buses. The pleas of the victims go unheeded and unheard.
Systematic rape is now an integral part of the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State. The Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department has even released a lengthy how-to manual that established specific guidelines for slavery based on a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious rulings.
The Islamic State fighters that participate in the rapes do not consider them wrong or a sin. Some even believe that by raping the captives, they are drawing closer to God. The fighters pray both before and after the terrible acts. Each sexual assault is celebrated as spiritually beneficial and virtuous. That might be the most terrifying fact of all.