Why would any woman who lives in a free society in the West choose to live under ISIS’s barbaric tyranny? Doesn’t she know that Syrian and Iraqi women (Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Kurds) are desperate to flee the region, that they fear being captured, forcibly married, forcibly converted to Islam—or tortured as sex slaves?
I ask these questions because the Washington Post is currently running an in-depth look at “Life in the ‘Islamic State.’” Part two of the multi-part series focuses on women. The report is chilling and difficult to read.
The Post’s series reminds us that not all women are treated the same way under the men in charge of ISIS. -- There are wives and then there are literally sex slaves.
Tragically, we already know the fate of the lucky “wives.” They lead isolated lives spent mostly indoors without electricity or clean water. They wear heavy head-face-and-body covering in 100 degree weather--and they are monitored, harassed, and punished by a sadistic all-female brigade if their burqa slips. According to the Post they join “an institutionalized, near-assembly-line system to provide fighters with sex and children. When their (arranged marriage) husbands are killed, they are expected to celebrate their ‘martyrdom’ and quickly marry other fighters.”
The sex slaves are not even this “lucky.” The mainly Yazidi and Christian girls and women who are forced into sex slavery are raped up to thirty times a day by different men. They are forced to perform pornography-inspired acts which terrify and injure them. As members of a shame-and-honor tribal culture, most believe that they no longer deserve to live. Many attempt suicide; some succeed. Many are sold, over and over again—and trafficked to Saudi Arabia or Northern Africa.
Why would any Western woman, any woman for that matter, want to join ISIS, you ask?
Here are three reasons:
1. They romanticize their potential roles as “revolutionaries” and do not realize that all they will be allowed to do is cook, clean, sew, have sex, produce babies, and pray.
2. They fear they cannot meet the demands of freedom in the West which involve decision making and responsibility for one’s own choices and believe that they can succeed if they had strict, set, rules to follow.
3. Some view a decision to join ISIS as a way of “returning to one’s roots” and rejecting a secular, modern, and allegedly “Islamophobic” Western culture.
So those are some of the answers. Now, here are more questions: Why are so few Western feminists crying out to high heaven about this?
I certainly am. But why am I such a lonely voice?
Why are feminists not rescuing ISIS’s sex slaves or at least buying their freedom, one by one, which is one of the things that my good Christian colleagues, Sister Hatune and Hans Erling Jensen at the Hatune Dogan Foundation have done?
Why are so many Western feminists still obsessed with criticizing America first, Israel second -- and ISIS only in a whisper?
Feminists are the first and only ones who exposed sexual violence towards girls and women in the late 1960’s and 1970’s and who have condemned the misogyny of Christian and Jewish fundamentalists.
Has their quota of wrath been exhausted, is there none left for fundamentalist Islam which hopes to bomb us all back to the 7th century and envisions face-veiling and isolating Muslim women, and gang-raping and trafficking all other women?
I call upon President Obama and upon Western, educated secular feminists—both women and men—to join Christian and Yazidi groups in the compassionate rescue of ISIS’s sex slaves.
More: I call upon our government to rescue the Christians (Syrians and Iraqis) whom, I have just been told by Hatune’s International Director, Hans Erling Jensen, are trapped in Turkey, with too little food and no medical care.
Unlike their Muslims brethren, the Christians have No Exit. No money, no Muslim relatives who control matters on the ground in the Turkish refugee camps.
They deserve to be mercifully redeemed by the West. It is in our interest to do so.
Christians might assimilate more safely into a Judeo-Christian culture than so many of the primarily male Muslims who are flooding into Europe.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies. She is the author of 4 studies about honor killings and 16 books.