In Algeria, Women 'Imams' Battle Islamic Radicalisation
February 28, 2015
ALGIERS: Hundreds of female religious guides have been at the forefront of Algeria’s battle against Islamic radicalisation since the civil war that devastated the North African country in the 1990s.
Their aim is to steer women away from false preachers promoting radical forms of Islam.
The surge of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq, and even in Libya next door, as well as the growing influence of al Qaeda-linked militants and Salafists, has them working around the clock.
Known as “mourshidates,” their goal is to spread the good word of Islam and a message of tolerance, helping those who have strayed from it.
Read: Eight British school girls travel to Syria to become IS brides
“Killing is a capital sin, so how is it that people can kill innocent ones in the name of Islam,” asks Fatma Zohra, who is in her mid-40s, her hair and neck concealed under a matching purple veil and a Hijab.
Like the other 300 mourshidates appointed by the religious affairs ministry, Zohra holds a degree in Islam and has learned the Quran by heart.
She said she was “motivated to know Islam better in order to teach the religion” following the traditionally moderate Muslim country’s civil war in the 1990s, which killed at least 200,000 people.
The war erupted after authorities cancelled the 1991 elections, Algeria’s first democratic vote, which the Islamic Action Front was poised to win.
Zohra, who was a student at the time, recalled bitterly as she met a group of women in a mosque, that “Algerians killed Algerians in the name of Islam.”
For the past 17 years she has been “listening to women, advising them and referring them to specialists” when their problems are not directly linked to religion.
The mourshidates use skills borrowed from psychology and sociology, working in mosques, prisons, youth centres, hospitals and schools. Unlike imams, who are men, they are not allowed to lead prayers.
When the first mourshida was licensed in 1993 to teach and guide women, only housewives showed up, but the audience has grown over the years to include university students and professionals.
“Imams are good but it is much better to confide in a woman,” says Aisha, in her 60s.
Meriem, a high school mathematics teacher, said the rise of “fake prophets,” who seek to indoctrinate young people, persuaded her to attend meetings with the likes of Zohra only a few months ago.
“I wanted to learn the true Islam,” she said.
Samia, another mourshida who decline to give her surname, says she has been working for the past 15 years in a region of Algeria where youths, both boys and girls, have been increasingly radicalised.
“Their mothers suffer to see them become radicalised and confide in me so that together, and with the help of others, we can de-radicalise them,” she said.
Samia warns that Algerians must be alert.
“Even if very few Algerians have joined the ranks of the IS group, vigilance is necessary because radicalisation takes many forms,” she said.
“Pseudo-imams, who know nothing about the teachings of the Koran,” are trying to indoctrinate people through television programmes and the Internet, she said.
“Adolescents in particular must be monitored because they are impressionable and can easily be swayed.”
She recalls how she worked hard to help save a 17-year-old girl after her parents complained that she had begun adopting radicalised behaviour.
Read: Police hunt for ‘IS-bound’ London girls
The girl’s mother told Samia her daughter “had been indoctrinated and had begun wearing the full Islamic veil” and would admonish the family about attending weddings or watching television.
“For months we counselled the girl and listened to what she had to say. Finally she went back to school and resumed her normal life,” Samia said.
Like Samia, many mourshidates say they are proud to have contributed to help youths from falling into the grips of radical Muslims.
“It is the biggest reward of our work,” one of them said.
ISIL Grooming Schoolgirls as Volunteer Brides for Jihad
28 Feb, 2015
Women are increasingly volunteering for jihad, some so young they are still in school, like three British teenagers grabbing headlines recently.
They leave their regular lives to join a conflict in which ISIL’s crimes against civilians have brought Western and Arab military forces to fight them.
So why join? ISIL [calling itself ‘Islamic Caliphate’] publicly executes enemy prisoners with extreme cruelty, and yet this (needless to say) patriarchal organisation, in contrast, promises to welcome these often very young women warmly — wherever they come from. This is powerful motivation and manipulation.
In ISIL’s interpretation of traditions rooted in the seventh century, women are property. Yet its propaganda and recruitment videos show them training proudly with modern weapons.
In western countries, in Europe, Internet is the main recruiting tool, and women are promised a better life.
Austrian schoolgirls Samra Kesinovic, 16, and Sabina Selimovic, 15 left their homes in Vienna to join ISIL last year. Children of Bosnian migrants, security services say they have contacted their families to say they now want to return.
The violence of the cause is not hidden, but the word ‘jihad’, meaning struggle, is conveyed as a religious duty of Muslims.
Jonathan Ali Meheni’s underage sister left their home in France, and communicates with them from Syria.
He doesn’t like what he hears: “She doesn’t say she’s disappointed. She says she’s fine where she is. She doesn’t want to come home. Apparently, everything there is beautiful. I just don’t understand.”
Shamima Begum (15), Amira Abase (15) and Kadiza Sultana (16) were all straight A students at the Bethnal Green Academy in London. CCTV at Gatwick airport shows them on their way to Istanbul, a well-worn pit-stop used by would-be jihadists on the way to Syria.
There are warnings on the Internet, from police and families, of the risks of radicalisation, and yet young women, now including British, voluntarily set out on what media have taken to calling the ‘jihadi bride trail’. The more the better, for ISIL: to bear babies, so that a new ‘caliphate’ may multiply, and to attract more men to sign up.
Women are not new to terrorism. They have proved their ability, for instance the Palestinians, ready to take life at the expense of their own.
Chechens as well: in the Moscow theatre hostage crisis in 2002, all of the more than 40 men and women attackers were killed. The Islamist militant separatists had demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya.
France is thought to have the highest number of female jihadis in Europe, with up to 100 girls or women estimated to have travelled to join ISIL. Among the suspected fugitives is Hayat Boumeddiene, reported by French media to be the boyfriend of Amedy Coulibaly, who killed five people in Paris in an attack seemingly coordinated with the Charlie Hebdo killings.
Women's Rights Campaigner Writes Heartfelt Letter to Girls Thinking Of Joining ISIS
February 28, 2015
A Muslim women's rights campaigner has written a heartfelt letter to girls considering fleeing the country to join Isis after three schoolgirls left London to join the extremist group.
Sara Khan is urging young girls to disregard the propaganda disseminated by Isis and its supporters, who target women using social media and online forums.
Her powerful letter is published by Inspire, a group aimed at raising awareness of human rights and protections offered to Muslim women under the Equalities Act 2010. Ms Khan is the group's director.
Ms Khan says she has no intention of writing other than to warn these girls they are being lied to “in the wickedest of ways”.
“You are being lied to first and foremost about your religious duty as a Muslim but also about the reality of life under Isis,” she writes.
"There is no religious obligation to make Hijra or to pledge allegiance to this self-declared leader who claims to be Caliph. Muslims for centuries have lived in lands that were not under Muslim rule.
"Even during the Prophet’s lifetime, he did not ask those early Muslims who initially made Hijra to Abyssinia to make Hijra to Medina, when Medina was ruled by the Prophet (pbuh)."
She described the many centuries where Christian and Muslims co-exited peacefully, periods that come in stark contrast to the persecution Isis has inflicted upon religious minorities living in areas under its self-declared caliphate.
Ms Khan went on: “Isis omits to tell you that for centuries Christians and other minority groups lived in the Middle East in harmony with their Muslim neighbours. Because it is rather inconvenient to their poisonous narrative of Islam.
“As Muslim jurist Khaled Abou el Fadl writes, the Koran teaches that the act of destroying or spreading ruin on this earth is one of the gravest sins possible. Fasad fi al-ard, which means to corrupt the earth by destroying the beauty of creation, is considered an ultimate act of blasphemy against God.”
She also addresses the treatment of women married to or captured by Isis members, who have been raped, beaten, abused and prevented from working. “Isis state that girls should be married from the age of 9 and that, women should remain ‘hidden and veiled from society’ – but this stands in stark contrast to Muslim history. Islam produced some of the most amazing women who were anything but hidden away from society.
“Muslim women contributed to all walks of life including Fatima al Fihri who in 859CE founded the first academic degree granting university in Morocco. Asma Bint Shihab al-Sulayhiyya (d480/1087) who ruled Yemen with her husband as did her daughter in law, Arwa. Both these female heads of state were so respected that the Friday sermon in mosques were proclaimed in their names. Hidden, these women were not."
At least 60 women are believed to have fled the country to join Isis so far, many of them teenagers who were radicalised online.
A manifesto translated by the counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation showed how Isis places emphasis on women living "sedentary lifestyles" focused mainly around the domestic home.
“Dear sister, do not destroy your life and your families lives by buying into a lie,” her letter concludes. "You will find many of your fellow Muslim sisters have also rejected the call of Isis as they have seen through the poisonous ideology it peddles.”
RIYADH — The Special Criminal Court in Riyadh has put on trial several women who staged a sit-in protest in Buraidah demanding the release of a woman who was imprisoned for 15 years after being convicted of financially and logistically supporting the activities of Al-Qaeda.
The court on Thursday set a date to hear the trial of the Saudi women, who gathered before the General Court in Buraidah.
They were carrying placards demanding the release of the imprisoned woman, dubbed “Lady Al-Qaeda”.
Iranian woman wins rights award for Hijab campaign
28 Feb, 2015
An Iranian journalist has received a human rights award in Geneva for creating a Facebook page inviting women in Iran to post pictures of themselves without their headscarves in defiance of rules requiring them to wear a Hijab.
Masih Alinejad (38) launched Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women last year, attracting more than half a million likes on Facebook in a matter of weeks. Thousands of women took off their veils in public and sent in their photos to be published.
Stirring the conscience
The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, a group of 20 non-governmental organisations, gave Ms. Alinejad its women’s rights award for “giving a voice to the voiceless and stirring the conscience of humanity to support the struggle of Iranian women for basic human rights, freedom and equality.”
Ms. Alinejad’s campaign, reported in the Guardian last May, irritated Iranian authorities, and state-affiliated media launched a smear campaign accusing her of using recreational drugs or being perverse.
Ms. Alinejad said she was delighted to win the award and hoped it would raise awareness about Iranian women demanding basic rights.
“From seven-year-old schoolgirls to 70-year-old grandmothers, women in Iran are all forced to wear the Hijab,” she said in a statement published on the summit’s website. “Hopefully this award will create an opportunity for the voices of Iranian women who say no to the forced Hijab to echo throughout the halls of the United Nations.”
Ms. Alinejad, who lives in exile, told the Guardian last year that she was not opposed to the Hijab and that her mother was veiled, but she had created the page because she wanted people to have the freedom to choose.
“I have no intention whatsoever to encourage people to defy the forced Hijab or stand up against it,” she said. “I just want to give voice to thousands and thousands of Iranian women who think they have no platform to have their say.”
A year after it was created, the Facebook page has more than 760,000 followers and still receives photos from Iran. One young woman sent a picture of herself unveiled with a message reading: “We have never asked to go to heaven by force. Do not turn our lives in this world to hell for the sake of that heaven. We would like to taste the real freedom, not the stealthy one.”
Support from men
Many Iranian men have also supported the campaign. One man took a picture of himself along with his mother while she was without veil last week, saying they were both against compulsory Hijab. “As someone belonging to the new generation of this country with my mother, [we are] firmly defending one of the most basic human rights,” read his message. “We have the best judgment ourselves and we do not need anyone to guide us on our behalf.”
"Women in Islam" Panel Discussion to be Held at Lone Star College-Kingwood
28 Feb, 2015
Event honors Women's History Month
On March 5, Lone Star College-Kingwood and the Houston office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Houston) will host a panel discussion in honor of Women's History Month.
Lone Star College-Kingwood and the Houston office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Houston) will celebrate Women's History Month by holding a panel discussion on contemporary issues related to Muslim women. The panel is composed of women from a variety of backgrounds including community leaders, professionals and students. The college anticipates 75 to 100 attendees.
"In our increasingly diverse greater Houston community, it's essential that women from all backgrounds be honored this month," said CAIR-Houston Communications Coordinator Ruth Nasrullah.
The College's Intercultural Center is hosting the panel discussion.
"Lone Star College is excited about this event, which gives our student body the opportunity to hear from Muslim women, a frequently misunderstood group," said Kristen Wilkes, Lone Star College-Kingwood's Intercultural Program Coordinator.
The program is free and attendance is open to all.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
The Lone Star College-Kingwood Intercultural Center seeks to foster intercultural awareness, inclusiveness and respect for all in the LSC-Kingwood community. It is committed to the enhancement of a positive LSC-Kingwood experience for students, staff, and faculty, especially those from culturally and ethnically diverse communities.
Symbolic demonstration by Afghan girl to protest against harassment
28 Feb, 2015
An Afghan girl protested against street harassment of women and girls in the country through a symbolic demonstration by wearing an strange outfit which is apparently made of metal.
The photos went viral on social media websites on Thursday which purportedly shows a young girl walking in the streets of Kabul and is surrounded by dozens of men.
There have been mixed reactions by online social media users in the country with majority opposing with the act of the girl, while ceratin people saying that such acts are organized with an aim to implement the western culture in the country.
Almost all Afghan women experience various forms of street harassment every day in their life, but it’s not just a daily experience to be forgotten a few seconds later; it leaves long lasting scars on women’s spirit and sense of confidence which discourages and limits women’s participation in public life, according to a report by Stop Street Harassment Organization.
However, due to the predominant culture of “shame” and “honor” and high social stigma attached to issues of sexual harassment, Afghan women often do not talk about their experiences of street harassment. The scar remains invisible and women continue to suffer, generation after generation.
This comes as a set of photographs have gone viral on social media websites in Afghanistan earlier in December last year which showed a young lady walking in the streets of Kabul city with bare legs.
The young woman was reportedly spotted in Karte-3 area in the western part of Kabul city but there are no reports regarding the exact date and time the photographs were taken.
The photographs were widely shared on social media, specifically on Facebook and Twitter which are commonly used in Afghanistan.
Pakistan: ‘Child Marriages Bill To Be Tabled By March 8’
February 28, 2015
LAHORE: The government is set to introduce a bill to outlaw the marriage of girls under the age of 18 on March 8, MPA Mary Gill said on Thursday.
She was addressing a consultation meeting on the issue of violence against children, organised by the Children Advocacy Network (CAN).
“Under the proposed law, special permission will be required from a court for the marriage of a girl between the ages of 16 and 18,” she said.
She said that there was a need to enforce child rights laws. She asked the civil society to suggest law reforms.
Atif Khan, a legal adviser working with the CAN, said that there was an urgent need to improve the legal system and police for dealing with children who had suffered violence and abuse. “A special cell should be created within police to investigate and deal with cases of child abuse. This will help speed up the investigation. It will also keep children away from the unhealthy impact of visiting a police station,” he said.
He said that special circumstances that had been laid out in the Juvenile Justice Ordinance could also be applied to children who had suffered violence. Khan said that a children-friendly legislative framework was needed.
Iftikhar Mubarik from Plan International said that child rights interventions in the past had not been structural and strategic. “This has left huge gaps. Various people and organisation are working in isolation in sectors like sexual abuse, child labour and corporal punishment. However, none have been brought under the ambit of child protection,” he said.
Mubarik said that a special session was held on November 25 in the Punjab Assembly to discuss legislation about child rights. “The Child Protection Policy was passed in that session. However, it is still lying with the Planning and Development Department. There is a need to create a structure to redress violence against children, instead of leaving such cases at the mercy of political and judicial interventions,” he said.
Nasreen Farooq from the Child Rights Commission highlighted the role the commission played. “The commission can take action against any injustice or violation of child rights in government departments. A decision taken by the commission can only by challenged through a plea to the governor,” she said.
RI closer to forging child-friendly cities in Jakarta
28 Feb, 2015
The government is expected to name a few cities hospitable to children this year.
The Women’s Empowerment and Children Protection Ministry said Thursday President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo would acknowledge the five cities during the commemoration of National Children’s Day, which falls on July 23.
The ministry’s child protection deputy, Wahyu Hartomo, told The Jakarta Post the cities were Surakarta in Central Java, Surabaya in East Java, as well as Denpasar and Badung, both in Bali.
The ministry is using a five-level rating system in its evaluation of child-friendlines. From lowest to hightest, those levels are “Pratama”, “Madya”, “Nindya”, “Utama” and finally, “child-friendly”.
Currently, there are 239 cities in the program, up from 15 cities in 2010.
The cities would be the first to graduate to the status of “Utama”, one level below child-friendly.
No city has ever been honored as a “child-friendly city” falling short on at least 31 indicators.
Among of the 31 indicators are strategies for overcoming child abuse.
Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, said that there were a number of steps a city needed to take before being declared child-friendly.
“It must have a clear plan on how to protect children. We need to have a process for monitoring how the plan is conducted to see is anyone left behind. This needs to be transparent for everyone,” she announced in Jakarta on Thursday.
Prior to selecting a city to join the program, the ministry first holds talks with local heads.
“Do they have the commitment? If they have it, then we start by establishing a working committee consisting of government officials, child experts and NGOs. Then we gather primary data to see where the problems are. Then, the committee works to find solutions for the implementation of regional policy,” Wahyu said.
To ensure that the cities achieve “Utama” status, the ministry helps guide local governments, he said.
“We will also conduct regular evaluations to see if they meet the indicators set,” Wahyu said.
In addition to child-friendly cities, the ministry also expects the country to establish its first child-friendly schools this year.
“The program [to establish such schools] has just been approved by the National Development Planning Board [Bappenas] and we are currently drawing up indicators. Our target is 2015. We have been in talks with some cities [about the project],” Wahyu said.
In setting up the child-friendly schools, Bappenas will work with the Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Ministry.
“The ministry sometimes don’t consider establishing child-friendly environment in schools at all. All they think of is the curriculum,” said Wahyu.
Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Minister Anies Baswedan recently said he would transform schools into places where students enjoyed their experience.
“We need to make sure our schools consistent with the philosophical foundation that was made by the father of education, in Indonesia, Ki Hajar Dewantara. He referred to schools as gardens. A garden is a place that people love to visit,” Anies said.
The Federation for Indonesian Teachers Associations (FSGI) secretary-general Retno Listyarti, meanwhile, said that schools should not only be fun, but also free from bullying and violence.
Disabled children left at shelters crave Saudi family love
28 Feb, 2015
Many Saudi families are abandoning their disabled children at the country’s social care institutions, which is affecting the physical and mental well-being of these young people, and their ability to integrate into the community, say experts.
Specialists at the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center for Women in Dammam said that people with mental and physical disabilities need contact with their relatives.
Rabab Al-Marhoun, a social expert, said human beings are social by nature and cannot live alone. This is particularly important for people with disabilities. They need a sympathetic smile and physical contact, particularly with their parents, because they are more helpless than other people, she said.
Al-Marhoun said that some families think it is not important to visit those who have disabilities, in the mistaken belief that they do not have a proper grasp of time and place. “Residents of institutions need more contact because they are away from their families. They need to be visited,” she said.
Majd Al-Salman, who cannot see, said she is longing to have contact with her mother. “I haven’t seen my mother for three years. I long to do so, but my father will not allow it because I am staying at a center for the disabled. It is one hour away from my family’s home. I long to smell her and feel her touch me,” she said. Al-Salman said she could still remember the last time her mother visited. She has a vivid recollection of her perfume and the touch of her hand on her face.
Galiah Al-Oof, a social specialist, said visits by families have a positive effect on children with disabilities. It also helps families because they are able to get a better understanding of how their children are coping inside an institution.
Al-Oof said visits also educate families and they are able to get answers to questions about mental disabilities. This ensures that they accept the persons afflicted and interact with them in a better way.
She said those children who do not receive regular visits become more withdrawn. It affects also their physical health, which further worsens their disabilities.
Nai’ma Al-Ajmi, a social specialist, said counselors play an important role in communicating with families about visits. They set up regular meetings to explain the importance of contact and explain the goals of institutions and health professionals.
Al-Ajmi said this guidance also helps parents cope with unexpected crises. She stressed that parents and relatives need to understand that these children are like this for a reason, and accept God’s ruling in this matter. They should commit themselves to finding the best care possible for these young people at government institutions, she said.
Hong Kong Woman Jailed for Six Years for Abusing Indonesian Maids
28 Feb, 2015
Hong Kong. A Hong Kong mother of two who punched her maids, beat them with mops and threatened to kill their relatives was jailed for six years on Friday in a case that triggered outrage and exposed the plight of millions of domestic helpers across Asia.
Former beautician Law Wan-tung, 44, looked stunned as the sentence was passed after being found guilty of 18 of 20 abuse charges. She was also ordered to pay a fine of HK$15,000 ($1,934).
The charges included inflicting grievous bodily harm and criminal intimidation against Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and an another maid, also from Indonesia.
Law looked emotionless as she was led out of court. She had pleaded not guilty to the 20 charges but had admitted one of not buying insurance cover for her maid.
Erwiana had told media she would forgive her former boss and her family.
The brutality meted out to Erwiana has sparked calls for Hong Kong to revise its policies on migrant workers.
Erwiana, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2013, returned to Indonesia in January last year where doctors said burns on her body were caused by boiling water.
Photographs of a battered Erwiana posted online sparked outrage and Indonesia’s then president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, described her treatment as torture.
Hong Kong has about 330,000 foreign domestic helpers, most of them from the Philippines and Indonesia and nearly all women, who can earn more in Hong Kong to send back to their families than they can at home.
They earn a small fraction of the minimum wage and are forced to live with their employers, often in tiny apartments. Human rights groups say they often suffer physical and emotional abuse, including sexual assault.
ISIS’s passionate atrocity is not a exception, though a order in war
28 Feb, 2015
In an interview with CNN, Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, a Syrian activist, described life for women in ISIS’s Syrian capital, Raqqa, to be the equivalent of a “big open prison”.
Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi is not his real name but he is the founder of the fledgling underground resistance movement Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.
"ISIS fighters are really sex-mad. ... Some of them have two and three wives, and even with that they are trying to find slaves from Yazidi girls,” al-Raqqawi says. “A large section of ISIS members suffer from sexual anomalies and brutal instinctive desire for sex.”
A report produced by the activist group details horrific accounts of twisted sexual perversion – despite ISIS’s ultra-conservative boasts. One of the most sought after items in ISIS-controlled territory is the erectile enhancement drug Viagra – “in order to increase their strength to have more sex.” The report goes on to state that women and even very young girls are so terrified of the terror group’s violent sexual advances that many are too “terrified to leave their homes” due to “sexual practices of a brutal and abnormal manner.”
While these allegations are yet to be independently verified, and the identities of the activists are yet to be confirmed, they are consistent with the personal stories of those who have escaped sexual slavery under ISIS. "Women captured as slaves by [Islamic State] have been sold in markets in Raqqa,” said Valerie Amos, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief. “Some are sold to individual men. Others are kept by [Islamic State] in rest houses and face multiple rapes by fighters returning from the battlefield.”
These accounts are an assault on Western sensibilities, but only the ignorant and the foolish would dismiss sexual terrorism as something that is unique to ISIS, Islam, religious fanaticism or even Middle East culture. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of Western intellectuals and commentators willing to display said ignorance and foolishness, as a number have seized upon accounts of such sexual barbarity to paint it as something that is inherent to Islam – including The Atlantic piece “What ISIS Really Wants,” which did exactly that when it quoted an anonymous Islamic scholar who had endorsed sexual slavery to be consistent with Islam.
Sexual terrorism is neither unique to ISIS nor self-proclaimed Islamic terror groups in general. Sexual terrorism is what war-induced social chaos looks like, and no single ethnicity, religion, race or cultural identity has a mortgage on sexual violence carried out in times of conflict.
Since the dawn of civilisation, war has been linked to sex. The ancient Greeks depicted this truism in the illicit affair between the goddess of love (Aphrodite) and the god of war (Ares) - as did the ancient Israelites in the Old Testament, where war and sex is presented as intertwined. “Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves,” is how the book of Numbers (31:18) describes the Israelite tribes’ vengeance on Midian.
The depraved sexual violence carried out by ISIS mirrors the depravity carried out by any number of modern militias and militaries – secular and religious. It even mirrors the twisted sexual violence of those who have been aligned to separate warring factions – as was the case in Bosnia during the 1990s – when UN peacekeeping troops were both the patrons and sponsors of a prostitution ring that enslaved, raped and murdered women who had been trafficked to Bosnia from all over Eastern Europe (a story retold in the film The Whistleblower starring Rachel Weisz).
“The wars in the Balkans saw the rise of rape camps, places where women were kept under guard and repeatedly abused by Serbian paramilitary forces,” writes Chris Hedges, who survived 60 days of Serbian shelling in Sarajevo. “When this became boring – for perverse sex, like killing, must constantly entail the new and bizarre - the women were mutilated and killed, reportedly on video.” In War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, Hedges recounts how Bosnian Muslim men were gathered in town squares and beheaded by Serb militias. That is after they were forced to dig their own graves and “watch as their daughters or wives were raped in front of them.”
Hedges, who has covered conflict in Iraq, Central America and the Balkans, says that in war, even weapons becomes sexualized: “They [militias] carry their weapons slung low at an angle toward the ground….In the midst of slaughter the only choice is often between hate and lust. Human beings become objects, objects to extinguish or to provide carnal gratification. The widespread casual and frenetic sex in wartime often crosses the line into perversion and violence. It exposes the vast moral void.”
Israeli writer Amos Kenan was a platoon commander in the Israeli Army Brigade in 1948. “At night, those of us who couldn’t restrain ourselves would go into the prison compounds to f*** Arab women,” Kenan wrote in a 1989 article. In 2012, Eyal Qarim, an Israeli army military rabbi condoned rape in times of war so long it was for the purpose of the “success of the whole” and “since essentially, a war is not an individual matter, but rather nations wage war as a whole, there are cases in which the personality of the individual is ‘erased’ for the benefit of the whole.”
America is no stranger to war’s lustful and perverted impulse. The US Senate’s investigation into the CIA torture programme has already detailed incidences of rape and murder. But Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh says that despite this disclosure, we “haven’t begun to see evil… horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.”
According to a number of mainstream media outlets, including the Washington Post, the US is yet to release a video that shows US military personnel raping young Iraqi boys in front of their mothers at Abu Ghraib, Iraq.
“The women were passing messages out saying ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomised with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It’s going to come out,” said Hirsh in a 2014 speech.
Sexual assault within the US military itself has now reached pandemic levels. A Pentagon report revealed there were 3,553 reports of sexual assault in a 12-month period from 2012 to 2013. During this period, US soldiers were “15 times more likely to be raped by a comrade than killed by the enemy”.
In Kill Anything That Moves, US Vietnam War veteran Nick Turse reminds us that the War Crimes Working Group investigated more than 300 allegations of massacres, mutilations and rapes committed by the US in Vietnam. “Other files documented the killing of farmers in their fields and the rape of a child carried out by an interrogator at an army base.”
“You’re not likely to encounter the story of the rape of a Vietnamese woman by Americans in the ‘literature,’ writes Turse. “And yet the sexual assault of civilians by GIs was far from uncommon, even if you can read thousands of books on the Vietnam War and have little inkling that it ever happened…. war is also about rape, even male-on-male rape, even GI-on-GI rape. Just how many such rapes occurred, we’ll never know, because such acts were and generally still are kept secret.”
If modern history is a guide, ISIS’s sexual brutality is not the exception but the rule in war - no matter who is wielding the gun. “The truth is, we don’t even know the full story of war’s obscenity when it comes to the American experience,” contends Turse. And it’s likely we never will. Americans are rarely interested in reading the details of sexual atrocities carried out by its own. The focus is always on Them and never Us. Turse suggests the reasons for this are many and varied, “ranging from racism and ethnocentrism to pure financial calculation”.
I don’t doubt the veracity of al-Raqqawi’s claims about ISIS’s sexual violence. The terror group’s heinous propensity for unimaginable violence is well-documented. But the US and its allies often use their enemy’s violence as a tool to conceal their own. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is a well-known pro-Israeli “propaganda machine” based in Washington, DC. The group released its translation of an alleged “ISIS Sex Slave Pamphlet” at the same time the US Senate’s torture report was released to the US public. Coincidence? You decide.
The point being that in warfare the line separating the morality of the oppressed and oppressor, the victim and the perpetrator, is almost impossible to distinguish. Only fools, whose historical memory has been hijacked by those who bang the drums for perpetual war, think otherwise.