Islamic State Uses Female Brigade To Crack Down On Women, Says Activist

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Erica Wenig Contributor
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A Syrian activist describes the Islamic State’s brutal all-female brigade in a revealing new interview.

The Khansaa Brigade was formed in 2014, in response to an attack by members of the Free Syrian Army posing as women and hiding weapons under long, Islamic garb. It was tasked with inspecting women crossing into Raqqa, checking if they were armed and actually female.

Abu Ibrahim a-Raqawi is a founding member of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently”, a campaign exposing the horrors of life under Islamic State rule. He spoke to Syria Direct, a nonprofit journalism organization, about the terrorist organization’s female force.

British women make up an estimated 75 percent of the Khansaa Brigade. “Seeing as most of them are foreigners, they’re charged with searching for wives for the foreign fighters, and recruiting foreign girls. They get in contact with people they know in Europe and America in order to convince them to join the ‘Islamic State,'” says Raqawi.

The brigade punishes women who disobey Islamic State rules, such as exposing any skin or smoking. When a woman was caught breastfeeding at a bus stop, she was forced to choose a punishment – either be whipped or have a device known as the “biter” pinch an area of her skin. Choosing the biter, the woman was reportedly inflicted with such serious wounds she had to be admitted to the hospital.

Life for women under the Islamic State is akin to prison, says Raqawi. The Islamic State prohibits females under the age of 45 from leaving Raqqa because the U.S.-led coalition would find it much easier to bomb without any civilian collateral damage.

Although some women refuse to marry Islamic State fighters, others are given for marriage by their fathers, who in turn gain money, prestige or political currency. Raqawi’s campaign documented nearly 300 cases of forced marriage in Raqqa. Most were under 18 and at least two committed suicide afterward.

Raqawi tells Syria Direct:

IS fighters will marry once or twice. Despite that, they also search for slave girls from among the Yazidi women. They have a strange infatuation with sex. Cases of sexual violence have been documented. IS fighters purchase Viagra.

Females forced to wear the niqab- a long, black covering over the entire body, even the eyes. According to Raqawi, “girls with pretty eyes get exposed to a lot of harassment. They don’t pay attention to old women.” Even an arousing shoe color can lead to harassment, all meant to pressure girls into marrying Islamic State fighters.

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Erica Wenig