On the day Ibrahim fled his home city of Fallujah, crowds were gathering to witness the execution of two women who had refused to marry Islamic State (Isis) militants. A 49-year-old Sunni Arab, he says he was shocked “because I knew that those women were Sunnis from the country neighbourhood of Fallujah”.
It was the vulnerability of his two daughters, aged 21 and 23, to “temporary marriage” with Isis commanders, fighters and militants that led Ibrahim, which is not his real name, to leave Fallujah two months ago for Baghdad 40 miles away and later to seek refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. He told The Independent on Sunday in an interview that the threat to his daughters was the culmination of friction between him and members of Isis who captured the Sunni Arab city with a population of 200,000, in January of 2014.
Ibrahim says that Isis recently amended a “temporary marriage” order, extending it to civilians in peaceful areas and not just in war zones. Isis had previously enforced the “Jihad marriage” order, also known as the “Jihad al-Nikah”, in which jihad fighters have the right to take women, including minors, as captives and marry them for a short time, which might be one day or even a few hours. The order also gives the jihadists the right to marry more than one woman.
Countries where sexual violence has become a way of life
Countries where sexual violence has become a way of life
Recommendation: I urge the Government of Afghanistan to adopt legislative reforms to ensure that sexual violence offences are not conflated with adultery or “morality crimes” and to establish infrastructure for the delivery of protection, health and le gal services to survivors. I call on the Ministry of the Interior to accelerate efforts to integrate women into the Afghan National Police, thereby enhancing its outreach and its capacity to address sexual and gender-based violence
2/19 Central African Republic
Recommendation: I urge the authorities of the Central African Republic to ensure that efforts to restore security and the rule of law take into account the prevention of sexual violence and that monitoring of the ceasefire and peace agreement explicitly reflects this consideration, in line with the joint communiqué of the Government and the United Nations on the prevention of and response to conflict-related sexual violence signed in December 2012. I further encourage the authorities to make the rapid response unit to combat sexual violence operational and to establish a special criminal court
Recommendation: I commend the Government of Colombia for the progress made to date and its collaboration with the United Nations, including through the visit of my Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict in March 2015. I encourage the authorities to implement Law 1719 and continue to prosecute cases of sexual violence committed during the conflict to ensure that survivors receive justice and receive reparations. Conflict-related sexual violence should continue to be addressed in the Havana peace talks, as well as in the resulting accords and transitional justice mechanisms. Particular attention should be paid to groups that face additional barriers to justice such as ethnic minorities, women in rural areas, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals and women abused within the ranks of armed groups. I encourage the Government to scale up its protection measures and share its good practices with other conflict-affected countries
Recommendation: I urge the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to ensure full implementation of the armed forces action plan against sexual violence, to systematically bring perpetrators to justice and to deliver reparations to victims, including payment of outstanding compensation awards. I call on donors and the United Nations system to support the Government in its efforts and to pay increased attention to neglected areas, including unregulated mining regions
Recommendation: I commend the Government of Iraq for its national action plan for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and urge its swift implementation, including by training its security forces to ensur e respect for women’s rights. Programmes to support the social reintegration of women and girls released from captivity by ISIL are urgently needed, as is community-based medical and psychological care. The capacity of the United Nations system should be enhanced through the deployment of Women’s Protection Advisers or equivalent specialists
Recommendation: I urge the national authorities in Libya to implement Decree No. 119 and Resolution 904 of 2014 to ensure redress for all victims, including those affected by the current conflict, through the establishment of multisectoral services and the adoption of legislation to categorically prohibit sexual violence
Recommendation: I urge the Government of Mali, with support from United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, to develop a comprehensive national strategy to combat sexual and gender-based violence and to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers so that services can reach remote areas. I further call on all parties to ensure that conflict-related sexual violence is addressed in the inter-Malian dialogue and that perpetrators of sexual violence do not benefit from amnesty or early release
Recommendation: I urge the Government of Myanmar to continue with its reform agenda and, in the process, take practical and timely actions to protect and support survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and to ensure that security personnel accused of such crimes are prosecuted. Sexual violence should be an element in all ceasefire and peace negotiations, excluded from the scope of amnesty provisions and addressed in transitional justice processes. It is critical that women be able to participate consistently in and influence these processes
Recommendation: I reiterate my call to the Federal Government of Somalia to implement the commitments made under the joint communiqué of 7 May 2013 and its national action plan to combat sexual violence in conflict, including specific plans for the army and the police. I encourage the adoption of a sexual offences bill as a matter of priority
10/19 South Sudan
Recommendation: I urge the parties to the conflict in South Sudan to adopt action plans to implement the commitments made under their respective communiqués. I call upon the Government of South Sudan to address the negative impact of customary law on women’s rights and to reflect international human rights standards in national law. I also encourage the African Union to make public and act upon the report of its Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan
11/19 Sudan (Darfur)
Recommendation: I call upon the Government of the Sudan to grant the United Nations and its humanitarian partners unfettered access for monitoring and the provision of assistance to people in need in Darfur. Given that there has been grave concern over sexual violence in Darfur for more than a decade, I encourage the Government to engage with my Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict to develop a framework of cooperation to address the issue comprehensively
Recommendation: I acknowledge the Government’s invitation to my Special Representative to visit the Syrian Arab Republic and call upon the authorities, in the context of such a visit, to agree on specific measures to prevent sexual violence, including by members of the security forces. I condemn the use of sexual violence by ISIL and all other parties listed in the annex to the present report and call on them to cease such violations immediately and allow unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance
Recommendation: I urge the authorities in Yemen to undertake legislative reform as a basis for addressing impunity for sexual violence, ensuring the provision of services for survivors and aligning the minimum legal age of marriage with international standards. I further call on the authorities to engage with local community and faithbased leaders to address sexual and gender-based violence and discriminatory social norms
14/19 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Recommendation: I urge the relevant authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to harmonize legislation and policies so that the rights of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence to reparations are consistently recognized and to allocate a specific budget for this purpose. I further call upon the authorities to protect and support survivors participating in judicial proceedings through, inter alia, referrals to free legal aid, psychosocial and health services, as well as economic empowerment programmes
15/19 Ivory Coast
Recommendation: I urge the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to ensure the effective implementation of its national strategy to combat gender-based violence and the action plan for FRCI, and call on the international community to support these efforts. It is critical to accelerate disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and strengthen law enforcement to ensure that ex-combatants who have been reintegrated into the transport sector do not pose a risk to women and girls who are reliant on those services. The Government and the international community must provide monitoring and awareness-raising to mitigate the possibility of a recurrence of sexual violence in the context of the presidential elections to be held in October 2015
Recommendation: I call on the Government of Liberia to continue its critical efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence including through the United Nations-Government of Liberia Joint Programme, and in the context of recovery from the Ebola virus epidemic
Recommendation: I encourage the Government to ensure that survivors of conflict-related sexual violence are recognized under the law as “conflict victims”, which will enable them to access services, judicial remedies and reparations. I further call on all parties involved in the transitional justice process to ensure that the rights and needs o f survivors of sexual violence are addressed in institutional reforms and that these crimes are excluded from amnesties and statutes of limitations
18/19 Sri Lanka
Recommendation: I call upon the newly elected Government of Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of sexual violence, including against national armed and security forces, and to provide multisectoral services for survivors, including reparations and economic empowerment programmes for women at risk, including war widows and female heads of household
Recommendation: I encourage the Government to implement its national action plan on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) to ensure that women’s protection concerns are mainstreamed throughout its security operations. I also call upon the authorities to guarantee security in and around internally displaced persons camps and to extend medical and psychosocial services to high-risk areas
Ibrahim says that following this new order, an Isis militant “started to vex and harass my daughters and follow them when they went to the bazaar”. He continues: “One day, my elder daughter returned home terrified because a man was following her. After a while, he knocked on the door and asked to marry her, but I refused. Then he threatened to take her compulsorily and assured me that he was legally allowed to do so.” Ibrahim immediately sent his daughters to Baghdad and followed them the next day.
The change for the worse in the status of women has been one of the main developments within territory controlled by Isis since it started expanding its rule in 2012. In an interview published in The Independent earlier this year, an Isis fighter who gave his name as Hamza, also from Fallujah, recalled speaking to Tunisian Muslim women who had made their way voluntarily to Isis because they supported its beliefs and aims, and who had undergone “temporary marriages” with Isis commanders. The Tunisians would then be divorced after a week and would marry another commander. By way of contrast, captured women from the Yazidi sect were regarded by Isis as pagans without rights and were offered to fighters for sex.
“It was in the first week of December 2014 when they brought about 13 Yazidi girls to us,” Hamza says. “The commander tried to tempt us by saying that this is halal [lawful] for you, a gift from Allah that we are allowed to satisfy ourselves without even marrying them because they are pagans.” Hamza regarded this as rape and, together with fear that he would be asked to take part in executions, led to his disillusionment with Isis and flight from Fallujah.
Ibrahim paints a fascinating picture of life in Fallujah before he left, showing how even conservative tribal Sunni Arabs are at risk of being denounced for disloyalty or for resisting the diktats of Isis. He says that friction between him and the militants had nothing to do originally with his daughters, but was over money owed to him. He explains that before Isis arrived in Fallujah, “I had some problems with my countrymen relating to debts. I taught their children private lessons, but because some of them didn’t pass their exams, their parents refused to pay for the lessons”.
Ibrahim lodged a complaint with the police over the debts, so the parents of his failed students were detained several times by police in Fallujah investigating the matter. “But in our culture it is an insult when somebody is called in by the police,” explains Ibrahim, adding that what made this worse was that he and the people against whom he had made a complaint came from different tribes.
But when Isis occupied Fallujah, he discovered that some of those with whom he was having this long-running disagreement “were sleeper agents for Daesh [the usual name in Iraq and Syria for Isis and its predecessor organisation]”. They began to persecute him and create problems for him, culminating in the threat to his daughters of compulsory marriage.
From an early stage in its resurgence over the past four years, Isis has enforced increasingly onerous rules regulating the lives and behaviour of women. These are often outlandish and far beyond Sharia. The Sunni Arabs of western Iraq and eastern Syria are conservative, but women had not previously been compelled to wear the niqab covering the whole face. Isis has ruthlessly enforced a regulation that women below a certain age cannot leave their home without being accompanied by a male relative. If they do so and are detected, they are taken back to their house by Isis officials or fighters and their husband or father is given between 40 and 80 lashes.
At first, Isis rules were more loosely enforced in order not to alienate local people before the movement gained total control. Many administrative documents issued by Isis and collected and translated by Aymenn al-Tamimi now form part of an online archive which gives an invaluable insight into Isis workings and beliefs. An early regulation about restrictions on women’s clothing in Tel Abyad in northern Syria, issued in December 2013, spells out what is required. It says that “there will be a complete ban on unveiling, as well as the wearing of tight trousers and cloaks, and the adorning of oneself and imitation of kafir [disbelieving] women. And any woman who contravenes this… will expose herself to the severest consequences”.
On the question of whether both eyes and part of the cheek of a woman should be concealed, a fatwa orders that “it is necessary for her to cover her two eyes… with something delicate”. At times Isis prurience regarding anything to do with sex beggars belief. For instance, in February of this year, an announcement banned the keeping of pigeons above the roofs of houses with those who continue to do so threatened with fines, imprisonment and flogging. The reason for this is that pigeons “are harming one’s Muslim and Muslim women neighbours, revealing the genitals [of the pigeons]”.
The world of Isis, going by the regulations collected by Mr al-Tamimi, often varies markedly from other human societies because every aspect of religious, social and economic life is determined by its intolerant variant of Islam. There is a fatwa on the rights and wrongs of ransoming an “apostate” prisoner in exchange for money or as part of a prisoner exchange (answer: on the whole not). Numerous theologians, jurists and figures from Islamic history are quoted to support the ruling.
When schools were reopened in Isis-held parts of Aleppo last year, detailed instructions were sent to school heads on how this was to be done. Morning sessions were for girls and the afternoon for boys. Subjects no longer to be taught include “drawing and fine art, music, nationalism, French language, history, philosophy and social studies… The cancelled subjects are to be replaced with the following; aqeeda [creed], Koran, Hadith, Sira [life of Mohamed] fiqh [jurisprudence] and the name of PE will be replaced by jihadi training”.
Many orders are more mundane and are to do with the orderly running of the new state, including, for example, instructions on setting up kindergartens and the proper regulation of the club scouts. Prices are set for everything from the sale of vegetables in the markets to Caesarean operations in hospitals. Certain games such as billiards and table football are allowed, but under strict conditions. Car owners are told that they must carry tool kits including a spare tyre or face punishment. Overall, the impression comes across that Isis and the society it wants to create is solidly based on a conviction that its leaders what is right and wrong in all circumstances.
In this society, which is effectively a cult that believes it has a monopoly of truth and demands total loyalty, it is dangerous to disagree with authority or often fatal to be labelled as an “apostate” or heretic. These risks are highlighted by Akram Ghanem, a 51-year-old member of the Shabak minority from Hamdaniyah, a town just outside Mosul, who spoke to The Independent on Sunday. The Shabak are a small community combining Islam and Christianity, but whose Islamic beliefs are mostly drawn from the Shia tradition and as such are condemned by Isis. Knowing this, Mr Ghanem, who has two wives, one Shabak and one Sunni, wisely ran away to Irbil with 300 other families when Isis took over his town in August.
In Mosul he left behind his Sunni wife and their 20-year-old son who worked in a dyeing workshop and had quarrelled with some boys who were working in a shop nearby. These boys went to the new Isis authorities and complained that there was “a Shia boy fighting with Sunni people and making problems in the neighbourhood”. Mr Ghanem recalls sorrowfully that “my son Mohannad was taken to a juvenile offenders’ prison and held there for two weeks”. He was still there when the prison was hit by a US air strike and he was killed along with many others. Much though he detests Isis, Mr Ghanem says he fears that it can never be defeated because it appeals to too many ignorant people.