ISIS AGAINST WOMEN
And what we can do about it
ISIS has been in the news all around the world recently reporting on the scale of crimes against humanity rarely seen in our history. They destroy historical monuments and cities, commit genocide to religious minorities, execute Western journalists in front of the camera and arrange bombings all over the world. They are one of the key reasons of refugee crisis in Europe. And they do it in the name of their version of radical Islam exploiting the religion in the same hypocritical manner they exploit their own fighters and victims. Our natural reaction is terror and fury but what if we overcome it and will be able to do something to stop them? Like the Yazidi women, members of religious minority that suffered enormously of ISIS hands being chased out of their native towns of Tel Afar and Sinjar in Northern Iraq and forced to flee. They decided to learn an unwomanly craft of being warriors and now it’s their turn to terrify their enemies.
ISIS are certainly extremely cruel beyond any attempt of understanding. Amidst all their crimes against humanity there’s a special and even more shocking war, the war against women.
“They usually take the older women to a makeshift slave market and try and sell them. The younger girls, basically they … are raped or married off to fighters,” Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told in an interview to HuffPost last year. “It’s based on temporary marriages, and once these fighters have had sex with these young girls, they just pass them on to other fighters.”
“Not much attention has been paid to what is happening to these women. From the abduction to turning them into slaves, to forcing them into forced marriages, to abandoning them in certain towns. These women who have been raped become pregnant, they give birth to babies, children are ostracized. I mean, all sorts of barbarism and atrocities have been committed against these women.” (Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars)
This kind of blood-chilling stories from Iraq and Syria leave a feeling of terror and helplessness in every woman around the world. Deep inside we all feel like sisters and the pain that comes to others in our own pain. But instead of being terrified to our very core (clearly, the impression they are striving for) let’s try to make sense out of it.
What’s really going on?
The men that were once in women’s wombs are now so furious at them as a group that they treat them like objects exploiting and selling and deny any humanity in them. The psychologist Brandy Engler suggests it is a kind of fury that a little boy feels towards his mother because she’s unable to fulfill his every need and wish. So as an organization these guys just didn’t manage to grow up beyond this point. And one more proof of this split in their conscience comes from the following observation.
The jihadists are most afraid of female fighters: they are afraid to die of their hands. Apparently, radical imams have invoked interpretations of Koran passages to recruit men from all over the world, promising them a trip to paradise and “72 brown-eyed virgins if they die in battle or in what’s considered a martyrdom operation”. However, when they see a woman fighting back this is not quite the picture that they bear in mind. So they run back!
You see, according to their beliefs, one doesn’t make it to paradise if he dies of female hands !
More and more women, Yazidi among them, join Kurdish Army to fight ISIS and help bring peace back to their land. And just the sight of a woman with a gun as an enemy makes them retreat while these female fighters feel proud to serve.
Still, every day ISIS continues their war against many women and girls who come their way. Some manage to escape and come out deeply traumatized. When physical suffering is over emotional aftermath might stay for years with the victim in the form of PTSD, trauma in the body, psyche and soul. You can read a deeply touching testimony of this in “War’s Unwomanly Face” by Svetlana Alexievich. this year’s Literature Nobel Prize winner, who tells the stories of Russian and Belorussian women in and after the World War II. Violence, especially this kind of prolonged mass violence, usually leaves deep scars in female psyche. The unhealed pain of ancestors might perpetuate in many generations ahead. So we need to take action now to help the women regain their power and heal their suffering.
This is a complex process taking time and requiring resources. Here is how we can help now!
Yazda is a global Yazidi organization that helps Yazidi women that escaped ISIL enslavement and took refuge in Iraq. Their aim is “to help women recover from their ordeal and support their full integration to normal life.” The objectives include basic needs support such as food, clothing and medicine, as well as psychological and trauma treatment help, educational and legal support. You can learn about them and donate on their website: http://www.yazda.org/projects/support-yazidi-woman/.
Please donate if you can.
Keep your heart open and compassionate while your mind calm and observing. This might be our way as humanity to stop this conflict and prevent future ones.
In this holiday season when we’re all in a spirit of giving, when TV’s are filled with adds for buying in excess, spending on gifts we don’t really need and looking away from the real problems, what better way to wake up, but to help our fellow sisters?
If I can ask for anything this holiday season, I ask you please to stay aware of the issues we, women, and this world in general is facing! Please consider helping women who are in need or have gone through horrific tragedies we can’t even fathom.
Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk.