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July 22, 2015
By: Janice Tjeng
Edited by: Sharon Chin, MPH
Zainab Bangura, U.N.’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, recently conducted a tour of refugee camps in Syria and Iraq, war-ravaged countries where the Islamic State (ISIS) hold its territories. From there, she heard many horrifying stories of victims under ISIS’ control. Bangura mentions, “The brutalization of women and girls is central to their ideology.” Virgins were captured by jihadists and sold at auctions.
After attacking a village, jihadists segregate women from men and execute males that are above 14 years old. Girls are stripped naked, tested for virginity and examined for breast size and attractiveness. The youngest virgins fetch higher prices and are sent to the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa. Captors then take three or four girls and keep them for a month or so. Afterwards, the girls are sent back to the market for slave auctions, where buyers bargain for the price of a girl; prices are negotiated by buyers degrading girls with descriptions of being flat chested or unattractive. Examples of open brutality include one girl, who was traded 22 times. Another girl managed to escape, but the perpetrator who captured her wrote his name on her hand to claim that she was his property.
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About 3,000 to 5,000 women are enslaved by ISIS, many of which are Yazidis, a persecuted minority sect. The jihadists commit rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and other acts of extreme violence. A 20-year old girl was burned alive when she refused to perform an extreme sex act.
Bangura has urged international assistance in providing medical and psychological support for girls who have escaped their captors and are experiencing trauma as a result. Helping these survivors rebuild their lives serve as a type of vengeance against a group that wishes to suppress their women.
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Janice Tjeng is a third year Biology major at the University of San Francisco. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine. She looks forward to applying to medical school where she can learn the skills to provide healthcare for disadvantaged people.