ISIL's focus on women criticised in Turkey and the Balkans

22/08/2014

Citizens and experts urge states to react decisively against ISIL and its propaganda.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 22/08/14

photo

Muslim women sign a banner during a demonstration against the violent uprising of the jihadist group of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in the centre of The Hague on June 29th. [AFP]

Atrocities being committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) include the recruitment of women to serve as sex slaves for fighters.

The terrorist organisation, which is recruiting Muslim women in Turkey and Europe, has established centres to organise the sending of women to Iraq and Syria. A so-called "marriage bureau" is in Aleppo, urging "single women and widows to provide their names and addresses" and join ISIL.

Ali Semin, a Middle East analyst at the Wise Men Centre for Strategic Studies in Turkey, said that one of the biggest issues regarding ISIL is how it treats women and girls.

"They have a fatwa on that issue saying that it is halal to have intercourse with women during the war. They see a right for themselves to rape women. It is very obvious that ISIL is not a religious structure or an organisation committed to the religion," Semin told SETimes.

Iraqi Yazidi MP Vian Dakheel asked in an emotional appeal in the Iraqi parliament this month for immediate assistance to repel ISIL from the Yazidi towns of Sinjar and Zumar, where thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee into the mountains without food and water.

"Our women are used as the concubines and sold in the markets," Dakheel told the parliament. "We are being butchered under the banner of 'There is no God but Allah,'" she added.

Gözde Özköse, a single young Turkish woman in her 30s, told SETimes that she was very emotional while watching a video of a Yezidi woman mourning that ISIL had taken the community's daughters.

"I cannot believe what we are witnessing in this century. But the reality is very close to us. Just next to our 'indivisible integrity.' They are so-called modern enough to open an office to recruit sex slaves," she told SETimes.

Semin told SETimes that for many, the fear of being a sex slave is worse than death.

"They want to hide their daughters, their sisters, their wives from ISIL. They want to save the honour of their women. This threat should be considered very serious. ISIL has now been threatening the whole Muslim world. They have to be stopped and I am repeating ISIL has nothing to do with Islam," Semin said.

There is also an increasing online ISIL campaign trying to lure Western women to jihad and some European women have already ended up in the ranks of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The internet is being used as a powerful weapon to persuade Western women to travel to the Middle East and join the mujahidin to contribute "through matrimony" and "child- bearing."

The internet propaganda is accompanied by savage crimes, such as the beheadings of dozens of Syrian army soldiers in the northern Syrian province of Raqqa.

There have been reports of several European women joining the jihadists in Syria, including 16-year-old British twins Salma and Zahra Halane, who left their home in Manchester in May and traveled to Syria to become jihadi brides.

"Such propaganda can be very dangerous because we already had cases of underage girls going to the Middle East for these purposes. The state should react decisively and not allow the Islamists in any way to jeopardise the security of the citizens," Dzevad Galijasevic, former director of the Southeast Europe Expert Team for the Fight Against Terrorism and Organised Crime, told SETimes.

In mid-July, ISIL released a video showcasing Bosnian Muslim girls chanting and waving the ISIL flag. The video has since been removed, but recent photos on the girls' Facebook pages show them brandishing Kalashnikov rifles, and in some pictures they are surrounded by armed men. They announced plans to marry so that they can become "holy warriors," as, they wrote, "Death is our goal."

Citizens in BiH believe that parents should be aware of what their children are doing on internet.

"Parents should be careful of what pages their children are visiting on internet. Islamic propaganda is brutal, like every other propaganda. Such pages and people who are dealing with recruiting should be reported to the police immediately to protect our women and young girls from that terror," Elmaja Aradinovic, a sociologist from Sarajevo, told SETimes.

Anzotika Kelmendi, who lives in Kosovo, agreed.

"The families should become aware [of the issue] and make their daughters aware. It should be more dealt with inside the society," Kelmendi told SETimes.

Abit Hoxha, a senior researcher of Kosovo Centre for Security Studies, said Kosovo is also exposed to such counter values mainly because of social, economic and other factors. "Despite the possible exposure and easiness to go to ISIL controlled territories, I hugely doubt that women from our region will willingly go for the purpose of marrying the fighters," he told SETimes.

ISIL militants have been accused of gross human rights violations and war crimes in Syria and Iraq, including rape, mass kidnappings, summary executions and massacres. Tens of Albanians from Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia are fighting in Syria and Iraq, making the governments even more cautious about the increasing trend of radicalism.

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The political advisers of the outgoing Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told SETimes that the government takes the issue very seriously.

"The war in Syria has attracted a number of people from Europe, including Kosovo, who are actively participating in the fighting there. This presents a serious security threat for the region, having in mind their active campaign to recruit new members and their potential return to the region," Ramadan Ilazi, one of Thaci's political advisers, told SETimes.

Correspondents Zeynep Cermen in Istanbul and Drazen Remikovic in Sarajevo contributed to this report.

How can the Muslim community and governments in Europe and Turkey protect women from ISIL and convince teens not to follow ISIL’s teachings? Add your thoughts in the comment area below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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