(AP Photo/Balint Szlanko)
“Even if I had lost both eyes, it would have been worth it, because I have survived them.”
Captured and enslaved by ISIS, 18-year-old Lamiya Aji Bashar escaped with her life despite tripping over a land mine that scarred her face and blinded her right eye. Her harrowing tale of abuse at the hands of barbaric savages is shocking, not only for its brutality, but for the world’s casual complacency towards thousands of victims just like her.
Officials estimate roughly 3,000 Yazidi women and girls are held as sex slaves by ISIS fighters in the Middle East. Viewed as subhuman because of their faith (a combination of Islam, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism), these victims were captured in August 2014 and have endured two years of unspeakable horror. Some were liberated by international donors who bought their freedom, while others like Lamiya risked everything to escape with a smuggler. Those who remain in captivity are raped, beaten, and tortured into submission. Five of Lamiya’s sisters and a younger brother have also escaped, but her 9-year-old sister is still in an ISIS camp somewhere.
Known for their prolific use of social media to recruit fighters and inspire terrorism across the globe, ISIS is also using new media technology to sell, trade, and track their sex slaves. Business is booming. On Facebook, Telegram, and WhatsApp postings for young women and children offer their bodies for cash, ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousands. Virgins fetch a premium. The enslaved victims are often dressed up in fancy clothes and heavy makeup and posed in luxurious settings. ISIS also carefully tracks each slave and their owner, passing photos and names around anytime someone tries to escape.
Shutting down the slave trade is made more difficult by the encrypted apps they use. WhatsApp and Telegram, both owned by Facebook, do not store user’s data and cannot access private conversations. The terrorists take full advantage of the built-in privacy, although the social media companies encourage users to report ISIS groups and remove their accounts when they are discovered.
It is abhorrent that thousands of innocent women and children have been trafficked, abused, and raped on a daily basis for the last two years and the world has done very little to stop it or even talk about it. It is grotesque that the profit from their sexual slavery is used to fund terrorism and enrich ISIS warlords. It is appalling that they do so openly on social media platforms and use our own love of freedom and privacy against us. And it is alarming that this use of encrypted social media means we have entered a new phase of the fight against terrorism – one where any rogue jihadist can join up with ISIS or Hamas or Hezbollah or any other terror network and remain virtually undetected by the authorities.
As people who love freedom and value human life, we owe it to girls like Lamiya to speak out against the savagery of ISIS and do everything we can to rescue the Yazidi people and other minorities persecuted by the Islamic State. We cannot allow the world to continue looking the other way. In the immortal words of the recently departed Elie Wiesel,
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
Read more about this story at The Daily Mail.