Christians and Yazidis
Slavery, particularly sexual slavery, has been a regular torment for non-Muslim populations living within the Arab Middle East. Among the best-known are the Yazidis of Iraq and Syria. Numbering perhaps 700,000 in Iraq as of 2014, the rise of ISIS brought disaster to their ancient communities. Outlawing their religion, slaughtering around 5,000, and displacing between 360,000 and 500,000, ISIS warriors also sold 3,548 captured Yazidi women and girls as sex slaves, according to the Yazda Organization.
Grisly accounts of their rape and torture have made their way to the West. One woman who managed to escape told Al Arabiya in 2015 that girls who refused to convert to Islam were “chained outdoors in the sun, forced to drink water with dead mice in it,” and that their captors valued Yazidis with “blue eyes and pale skin” the most. Another told the British tabloid The Sun in 2020 of how women were handed out as gifts between fighters, with adults sold for $50 and children for $35. Impregnated by her own master, he later thought better of the baby and ordered her to endure an abortion. According to Yazda, 2,760 Yazidis are still enslaved as of 2023.
Many Middle Eastern Christians have shared their Yazidi neighbors’ fate, some taken as slaves, others held for ransom. As Nina Shea wrote in a 2015 Hudson Institute article,
Over the past decade, thousands of Iraqi and Syrian Christians — including, in 2013, an entire convent of Syrian Orthodox nuns — have been taken captive for ransom. Last August, shortly after ISIS established its caliphate, it began something new. After capturing non-Sunni women and girls, ISIS began awarding and selling them as sex slaves. The vast majority were Yizidis but some, according to UN reports, were Christians.
…[T]wo prominent UN experts expressed grave concern about “sexual violence against women and teenage girls and boys belonging to Iraqi minorities.” Their report stated that “some 1,500 Yazidi and Christian persons may have been forced into sexual slavery,” which they condemned as “barbaric.”…
The Fatwa Department of the Islamic State made clear that the females of the “People of the Book,” including Christians, can be enslaved for sex as well, though Muslim “apostates” cannot. The number of Christian sex slaves is unknown. Three — Rana, Rita, and Christina — are publicly known. In March, 135 women and children were among those taken captive, from 35 Christian villages along Syria’s Khabour River. Their families, unable to afford the $23 million ransom demand, were told by ISIS, “They belong to us now.” The older women were released; the younger ones may be enslaved, though this has not been confirmed.…
…ISIS [has] published pricing guidelines for slaves based on age. Under the heading “Merchandise,” the listing starts with “200,000 dinars for a woman aged 1-9 / Yizidi/Christian” and ends with “75,000 dinars for a woman aged 30-40 / Yizidi/Christian.”…
No female is considered too young; only women over forty are let go or released for ransom. Amnesty reported that some slaves were “just babies.”… ISIS guidelines price Christian and Yizidi 9 year-olds at $172.
ISIS’ anti-Christian genocide is only the latest stage in a centuries’ long epoch of Muslim ethnic cleansing in the Arab world. Ancient Christian communities — some speaking the same Aramaic tongue Jesus spoke — have been nearly exterminated. As former British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt told The Guardian in 2019 — remarking on how “this atmosphere of political correctness” has stifled Western outrage — “In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20%; now it’s 5%.”
In the case of Christians, the Obama State Department consistently spurned efforts to label ISIS’ extermination of Christians as genocide, ignored direct pleas for help from Middle Eastern Christian leaders, and refused to allow Christian and other non-Muslim refugees to come to the U.S. The Trump administration succeeded in temporarily reversing many of those policies, as well as providing aid to Middle Eastern Christians in defiance of U.N. red tape. Nevertheless, the Biden administration soon returned to the Obama administration’s position of seeming to de-emphasize the importance of global religious freedom, and reportedly blocked the rescue of Christians from Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal in 2021.
The Trump State Department did work to help Iraqi Yazidis return to their homelands in the wake of successful U.S. strikes against ISIS, but, due to fear of alienating Turkey, failed to protect Syrian Yazidis from Turkish terrorists. The Biden State Department issued a “Statement on Missing Yezidi Women and Children” in 2021, but, since then, has done little else.