The Islamic State has begun using the encrypted Telegram app to sell off sex slaves captured in and around its territory.
“Virgin. Beautiful. 12 years old … Her price has reached $12,500 and she will be sold soon,” read a sex slave advertisement on the popular app.
An activist within the Yazidi community, a religious minority ISIS accuses of devil worship, shared the advertisement with the Associated Press. ISIS’ radical theology permits its fighters to take non-Muslim women as captive sex slaves. Women from the Yazidi population have been one of the largest victim populations.
The terrorist group is estimated to have around 3,000 women and girls for sale on its sex slave market. ISIS shares databases with its checkpoints that contain information on sex slaves in order to mitigate any chance of escape. The databases include pictures of the women and the names of their “owners.”
“They register every slave, every person under their owner, and therefore if she escapes, every Daesh control or checkpoint, or security force – they know that this girl … has escaped from this owner,” said Mirza Danai, founder of the German-Iraqi aid organization Luftbrucke Irak, to the AP.
A majority of the Yazidi sex slaves captured by ISIS were taken in August 2014 when the terrorist group massacred Yazidi villages in the Sinjar region in northern Iraq. The persecution has been described as genocidal by the United Nations.
Yazidis practice an ancient religion that borrows elements from other Abrahamic faiths, such as Christianity and Islam. ISIS takes exception to the group’s worship of the angel Melek Taus, who ISIS views as Satan.
“Daesh is proud of what it’s done to the Yazidis,” Nadia Mourad, an escapee, told European Parliament. “They are being used has human shields. They are not allowed to escape or flee. Probably they will be assassinated. Where is the world in all this? Where is humanity?”
Many ISIS sex slaves customers come from outside the caliphate’s borders. A November report from Germany’s ARD found that the terrorist group was actively selling sex slaves across the border in Turkey. At the time, sex slaves as young as nine-years-old were selling for as much as $15,000 t0 $20,000 each. Today, ISIS is much more strapped for cash, after months of U.S. strikes on its oil production and cash deposits. As the group’s money supply drops, so too does the price of sex slaves.
ISIS clerics released a fatwa, or religious ruling, last year that governs what owners can and cannot do with their slaves. Borrowing from archaic customs, the decree outlines everything from when an owners can have sex with his slave to how she can be sold. Clerics defended the ownership of sex slaves in the ruling, saying “graces which Allah has bestowed upon … the Caliphate is the conquest of large surface areas of the country and one of the inevitable consequences of the jihad … is that women and children of infidels will become captives of Muslims.”
In addition to Telegram, ISIS uses Facebook and WhatsApp to post sex slave listings. WhatsApp and Telegram are particularly popular due to their end-to-end encryption. The companies use encryption to protect users’ privacy, but the technologies can also be used for nefarious purposes.
“We have zero tolerance for this type of behavior and disable accounts when provided with evidence of activity that violates our terms. We encourage people to use our reporting tools if they encounter this type of behavior,” said Matt Steinfield, a WhatsApp spokesman, to the AP.
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