An ISIS-attributed pamphlet about the treatment of slaves that has been making rounds online has apparently surfaced in print, this time in the Iraqi city of Mosul. At least three citizens told CNN that armed men distributed the pamphlet, which discusses sexual slavery, after Friday prayers.
The document is written in a question-and-answer format and discusses what fighters are allowed to do with women. “It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse,” one part of it reads. “However if she is not fit for intercourse, then it is enough to enjoy her without intercourse.”
“People started gathering in small groups chattering about this [document],” one man told CNN. “Most are shocked, but [we] cannot do much about it.” ISIS has not denied taking sex slaves from non-Muslim populations they encounter, like the Yezidis, and the rules outlined in the pamphlet are not meant to apply to local women or foreigners who adhere to ISIS’s narrow brand of Islam.
Other responses in the pamphlet warn men that they can beat slaves for punishment, but not pleasure, and that they can’t sell a slave if they have impregnated her. If the slave woman is not a virgin, the document tells men to hold off on having sex with her because “her uterus must first be purified.”
The pamphlet may be part of a response to a recent condemnation of the group by Islamic scholars from around the word, according to UMass Lowell security studies professor Mia Bloom. Instead of engaging with centuries of Islamic theological debates, ISIS is reverting to seventh-century norms, at which point “women would have fallen under the rubric of war booty.”
She also doesn’t rule out the possibility that some foreign fighters might find these guidelines attractive. “Maybe they think that this is a recruiting tool,” she says, for frustrated men from abroad. But Bloom worries that this cycle of sexual violence will be difficult to stop. “They are creating a very perverse incentive system,” she says, noting the uptick of domestic violence complaints in postwar Serbia.
And, though “recognized Sunni Muslim women” are not explicit targets, they may get caught in the spillover. They have already stopped tweeting out heartfelt denials of the fact that ISIS engages in sexual slavery, as the group has begun to openly acknowledge the practice in publications. Yet they’re also not speaking out against it. “Normalizing sexual violence against women isn’t something that’s used as a precision tool,” Bloom says. “It’s eventually gonna come and bite them on the you-know-what,” she says, referring to women who support ISIS’s ideology.