ISIS has already committed countless unspeakable acts on Yazidi and Christian girls and women in Iraq, but the terrorist army may have reached a new low with a twisted new contest in which female slaves captured in war are given away as "prizes" to fighters who show the have mastered the Koran.
The shocking practice of giving away human beings as prizes, called "sibya," was organized by the Da'wa and Mosques Department in Al-Baraka province in Syria in honor of the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan and was announced June 19 on ISIS Twitter accounts, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute and the Clarion Project, two independent research institutes that track social media accounts linked to terrorist groups.
“By showcasing its slavery, ISIS is boasting that it practices Islam in its most literal interpretation, doesn't capitulate to public opinion and rejects modern interpretations.”
- Ryan Mauro, Clarion Project
An announcement on Twitter "begins with congratulations to ISIS soldiers and departments in the province upon the beginning of the month of Ramadan," MEMRI wrote, "It then announces the upcoming Koran memorization competition, at which it says participants will be tested and given prizes accordingly."
The statement lists the prizes planned for the top ten competitors, with the top three to each be awarded a female slave: 'Winner of the first place [will be granted] (sibya) [a female slave who was captured at war],'" the translation by MEMRI read.
The contest in Syria plays upon two major ISIS themes, said Ryan Mauro, national security analyst for the New York-based Clarion Project: They are the ones who most closely follow "true" Islam and the Islamic State is a “legitimate” state. The contest and its underlying competition demonstrate that fighters are studying the Koran, and that ISIS is not affected by international condemnation.
“By showcasing its slavery, ISIS is boasting that it practices Islam in its most literal interpretation, doesn't capitulate to public opinion and rejects modern interpretations,” Mauro said. “It is also showing it has a functional Islamic educational system and therefore is a real caliphate.
The timing of the announcement is significant as Ramadan is a time of year where Muslims are charged with rejuvenating their faith.
“Memorizing the Koran is a considered a pious and worthy thing to do and many memorization competitions are held around the world, especially during Ramadan,” the Clarion Project said in its June 21 report. “It is believed to be the month during which Mohammed received the Koran."
The chapters the Islamic State challenged its followers to memorize include “some of the most warlike passages in the entire Koran.”
Specifically the announcement, which told the competitors to come to one of four mosques including the “Mosques of Abu Bakr el-Sadiq, The Mosque of Osama Bin Laden, The Mosque of Abu Musab el-Zarqawi or The Mosque of el-Taqwa, and listed prizes, including "slave girls" and Syrian currency amounting to $500 and less.
“We ask the great lord to make your life easier and to grant you with what he loves and what pleases him,” the announcement concludes.
The treatment of girls and women captured by ISIS has become increasingly horrific and alarming, numerous human rights activists said.
In 2014, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitoring group, reported 300 Yazidi girls and women captured in Iraq were forced to convert to Islam and sold to ISIS jihadists in Syria for $1,000.
Last November, ISIS reportedly unveiled a menu of sorts for women and children for sale with women 40 and 50 years old sold for just $40, girls between 10 and 20 years old auctioned for $129 each, and children under 10 commanding higher prices. A Human Rights Watch report issued in April documented continued organized rapes, sexual assault, and other horrific crimes against Yezidi women and girls kidnapped from their homes and held as captives in Iraq and Syria.
The United Nation envoy on sexual violence reported in June that girls and women are being traded for as little as a pack of cigarettes, citing testimony of girls and women who were able to escape their captors.
Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption. Follow her on twitter at @MaliaMZimmerman