As it has expanded its territory for the past year, ISIS has targeted the Yazidi community, a religious minority in Iraq.
According to human rights groups, ISIS has captured thousands of Yazidi women and children as slaves since they swept through the group's ancestral home in the Sinjar mountains last year. ISIS claims that this is permissible because the Yazidis are not Muslim.
Although there have been many accounts of torture and rape at the hands of ISIS fighters by Yazidi women who have escaped, a harrowing New York Times story published Aug. 13, titled "ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape," has skyrocketed awareness of the group's plight.
The article, written by Rukmini Callimachi, describes how ISIS fighters use their faith to justify taking women and girls — some as young as 12 — as sex slaves. Yazidi girls who spoke to Callimachi for the story are interviewed in graphic detail about being raped by their ISIS masters, who, they said, would pray before and after the assaults.
The horrific practices described in the Times story and in many other reports have been defended in official propaganda as well as in social media posts by those claiming to be members of ISIS.
In May, in the ninth issue of Dabiq, the official magazine of ISIS, the group published a defense of the practice of taking and having sexual intercourse with enslaved women (which they claim isn't rape).
The article, purportedly written by a married female member of ISIS named Umm Sumayyah Al-Muhājirah, claims that slavery is acceptable because it was practiced by the Prophet Muhammad and his followers.
"Saby [taking slaves through war] is a great prophetic Sunnah containing many divine wisdoms and religious benefits," the author writes, criticizing those who oppose the practice, particularly those Muslims who have spoken out against the group.
And as far as allegations of abuse, the article describes the women who have given interviews claiming to have been raped and tortured by fighters as "devious and wicked slave-girls" who have "made up lies, and wrote false stories" about ISIS.
"Some slave-girls in our State are now pregnant and some of them have even been set free for Allah's sake and got married in the courts of the Islamic State after becoming Muslims and practicing Islam well," the author writes.
"I and those with me at home prostrated to Allah in gratitude on the day the first slave-girl entered our home," the author writes.
The article concludes by comparing ISIS-practiced sex slavery to prostitution and directly addressing the Westerners who condemn their actions:
Are slave-girls whom we took by Allah's command better, or prostitutes — an evil you do not denounce — who are grabbed by quasi men in the lands of kufr where you live?
A prostitute in your lands comes and goes, openly committing 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.
As for the slave-girl that was taken by the swords of men following the cheerful warrior Muhammad (sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam), then her enslavement is in opposition to human rights and copulation with her is rape?!
What is wrong with you? How do you make such a judgment? What is your religion? What is your law? Rather, tell me who is your lord?
This religious justification for slavery is echoed in the tweets of those who claim to be ISIS members.
The Qur'an describes female slaves of war as "right hand possessions," and ISIS members state that forcible sex with these girls and women is not rape.
In addition to providing justifications, these tweets often taunt the kuffar, or nonbelievers.
When reports of ISIS enslaving Yazidi women first began to circulate, ISIS members tweeted their criticism of Muslims who have spoken out against the practice.
Many ISIS members joke with one another about the group's practice of slavery.
The sentiments of these tweets are echoed in a video from November that appears to show a group of ISIS fighters jovially discussing an upcoming market where they plan to buy enslaved girls, placing a premium on teenagers with blue eyes.
ISIS members query one another on Twitter about where and how to purchase slaves.
ISIS accounts remind men that they didn't join the group so they could own sabiya, the word they use for enslaved women and girls.
An account claiming to belong to an ISIS fighter in Libya tweets about how he and his ikhwa (brothers) are planning to take Italian women as sex slaves.
Female members of ISIS also post anecdotes about the group's system of slavery.
Many of these messages defend the practice and how the women are treated under ISIS.
Tweets from female members of ISIS indicate that the buying and selling of young women is a way of life.
Some women even tweet about their own enslaved girls.
Many posts by ISIS members talk about enslaving the wives and daughters of world leaders.
Such as these tweets, posted by Zehra Duman, an Australian woman who ran away from home to join ISIS last year, in which she threatens the prime minister of Australia's family.
These tweets from ISIS members indicate that the group's eventual goal is to enslave as many non-Muslim women as they can.
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ellie Hall at email@example.com.
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