ISIS and the exploitation of Human Trafficking

The crisis of human trafficking has existed long before ISIS.  The United Nations reports that, as of 2012, there were 2.4 million victims of trafficking at any given moment in time as part of a $32 billion industry in which over 80% of victims are being exploited as human slaves, and two out of three victims are women.[1]  Each year, an estimated 800,000 women and girls are trafficked across international borders, and additional numbers are trafficked within their own countries.  Many such victims remain unseen, as sex traffickers often operate out of a variety of private and public locations, such as massage parlors, spas and strip clubs.[2]

Although kidnapping, rape, prostitution and physical abuse is illegal in nearly every country, local governments and police forces may participate in sex trafficking rings, which are very lucrative for the organized crime elements that operate them.[3]

The demand for human trafficking makes it an easy element for financing terrorism.  ISIS needs money to finance its terrorism operations, house operatives, wage its guerrilla wars against the governments within the territories in which it operates, and provide social services to the residents of its conquered territories.  Drug and human trafficking provide lucrative financial opportunities for the finance of such operations.  “Human trafficking serves three main purposes for terrorist organizations: generating revenue, providing fighting power and vanquishing the enemy…Trafficking and smuggling are part of the business of terrorism, and constitute one activity in the product mix of terrorist groups.  Terrorists smuggle drugs, arms and people.”[4]  And this is not limited to ISIS.  There are documented cases of other terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram, LTTE, the PKK and the Ansar al-Islam terrorist network, engaged in such trafficking activities.[5]

As ISIS terrorizes populations in Syria and Northern Iraq, it has kidnapped many young women and children, and sold them through the use of social media in the Middle East as sex slaves and for forced labor.[6]  They have even codified it as law, so that it is legal to buy, sell and trade sex slaves.  Since sex slaves are either Shiite or non-Muslims (non-believers), they are officially considered not human, and are kept like cattle.[7] [8] The Islamic State has kidnapped thousands of Yazidi women whom they have sold at auction as slaves or given to their soldiers as part of their compensation.[9]

ISIS promises each of its soldiers a job, a house, a wife (sometimes more than one as polygamy is legal), and a family.  For Muslim men, this is very attractive, as premarital sex is not allowed and marriage can be expensive. Because of this, most men don’t get married until their thirties.[10]

Jihadist recruiters are active in most western countries.  Jihadist recruiters for the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Nusra use social media to connect with potential jihadists for financing and soldiering right here in the United States.[11]

What is alarming is that most of the recruits are young people, many of them teenagers.  There are documented cases of teenage girls being lured through social media by the “fantasy” of providing humanitarian aid in Syria who end up as sex slaves for ISIS soldiers. [12]  But many of the human slavery victims are also “kafir,” non-Muslim women, such as Yazidis and even westerners, who are in demand because of their fair skin and hair.[13]

“With the influence of ISIS spreading throughout western Iraq, systematic sexual violence is increasingly used as a tool of terror, coercion and control. Multiple sources report ISIS’s demand for forced marriagescoerced child sex and various forms of sex trafficking. Furthermore, as ISIS seeks to recruit girls and women online, some political analysts warn that ISIS is creating a human trafficking pipeline streaming females from the West into Syria for forced marriage to militant groups.  It is important to note that most media favors reporting on sex trafficking, kidnappings, forced marriages and sexual assaults. As these egregious violations of human dignity continue, forced child begging, organ trafficking and the continuation of migrant labor exploitation are often overlooked.”[14]

Human trafficking was a problem long before the rise of ISIS, but its exploitation by terrorist groups has grown it to endemic proportions.  Local governments and law enforcement agencies must be taken to task to confront this problem instead of being a part of it.


Kenneth Eade is the bestselling, award-winning author of the thriller, “Traffick Stop,” on sale now on Amazon with all royalties devoted to victims of human trafficking.  https://www.amazon.com/Traffick-American-Assassins-Paladine-Political-ebook/dp/B01MXWF90G

[1] UN: 2.4 Million Human Trafficking Victims, US Today, April 4, 2012.

[2][2] Sex Slavery/Trafficking: Frequently Asked Questions, Soroptomist.

[3] Sex Slavery/Trafficking: Frequently Asked Questions, Soroptomist.

[4] Shelley, Louise, ISIS, Boko Haram and the Growing Role of Human Trafficking in 21st Century Terrorism, The Daily Beast, December 26, 2014

[5] Shelley, Louise, ISIS, Boko Haram and the Growing Role of Human Trafficking in 21st Century Terrorism, The Daily Beast, December 26, 2014

[6] Giannageli, Marco, Daesh kidnaps women and children to sell as sex slaves on social media, Express, December 27, 2015

[7] Callimachi, Rukmini, To Maintain Supply of Sex Slaves, ISIS Pushes Birth Control, March 12, 2016, New York Times

 

[8] ISIS Laws on ‘proper’ sex slave treatment revealed, December 29, 2015, RT

[9] Engel, Richard, Inside the Secret Rescue of Yazidi Sex Slaves from ISIS Captors, December 6, 2016, NBC News Storyline

[10] Bloom, Mia, How ISIS is Using Marriage as a Trap, March 2, 2015, Huffington Post

[11] Bardin, Jeff, What it’s like to be recruited by ISIS online, May 22, 2015, Business Insider

[12] Geiger, Gloria, This is How ISIS Uses Social Media to Recruit American Teens, November 20, 2015, Teen Vogue

[13] Sandeman, George, Western Women Wanted: Escaped ISIS sex slave says “blonde, blue-eyed girls are particularly popular amongst jihadis, The Sun, August 13, 2016.

[14] Hankel, Jenni, ISIS: One of the Many Contributions to Trafficking in Iraq and Syria, Human Trafficking Center Blog

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