From The Eyes of a Sabaya

Do they not reflect on the Qur’an, or is it that their hearts have locks upon them?

The Qur’an (47:24)

In an attempt to re-read the Quran from without and within- long established patriarchal perceptions of its holy verses- we find Asma Barlas reminding us of these words at the outset of her book “Believing Women in Islam- Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Quran”.

While the ambit of theoretical debates on what the Quran says or sanctions, may be misled with reflections or chains of varied opinions, that there are indeed chains upon the ankles of women which we have dragged along with us into the contemporary world, is a sad reality. A reality that has plagued our kind for centuries at end.

On 3rd August, 2014, ISIS fighters attacked the villages of Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq in an attempt to capture “bigots” and bring them to justice for belying the so-call tenets of Islam. This area was predominantly inhabited with the simple folklore of the Yazidi tribe who committed the crime of praying to the “Melek Taus”. According to the beliefs of this community, the Melek Taus or the Peacock Angel is primary amongst the 7 angels sent by God and represents their unredeemed Satan. To the fundamentalist, patriarchal and uncompromising Islamists of the ISIS, this comprises the heinous crime of Satan worship. The Yazidi community is also looked down upon for their practices in polytheism. It was in this self-appeasing and contorted reasoning, that ISIS fighters sought justification for the catalogue of disasters they began inflicting upon the Yazidis women.

Soon after the capture of Sinjar, ISIS’s English publication “Dabiq” released an article called “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” wherein it unabashedly and unequivocally claimed its support for and intentions of reviving the slave industry. Like that, with a sleight of hand the fates of thousands of women were reduced to the life of servitude, torture and rape. Everyday. For months.

Ever since, the ISIS has been running a full-fledged and organized system of enslaving their captives as spoils. Hordes of women have been herded off in looted Hajj (pilgrimage) buses to the cities of Mosul and Raqqa, to their makeshift slave markets for the purpose of being bought and sold like cheap second hand garments no one has any use for, in exchange of arms, money and even cigarettes.

The Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department has invested committed efforts in institutionalizing Slavery and the consistent torment of women and children through a rigorous system of memos, guidelines and internal policies. As if the cruel mortification- through rape, violence, abuse, forced abortions and deplorable living conditions- of more than 3000 women was not enough pain inflicted, the Fatwa (no 64) which was released on 29th January, 2015 made way for newfound atrocities with its explicit guidelines. According to this ruling, it made it unlawful for a man to copulate (read: rape) with a woman who had not finished her menstrual cycle or was pregnant. And so began the saga of forcing contraceptives down the throats of these captive women. Excruciatingly invasive virginity tests, public stripping, beating (when found pregnant or menstruating) came along with it so pervasively and easily, as if it were only a driftwood in a stream. Albeit a stream of blood. The levels of destitution upshot to such a high that these women prayed for death and pregnancy alike (gathered from the accounts of many women who were smuggled out and into the refugee camps of Dohuk) as the only ways out of their misery. These repeated accounts from the survivors of this hell, has also established that some of the captives were as young as 9 years old. Raped. Tortured. In the name of Jihad. In the name of religion. In the name of God. Or in the garb of some other new explanation that justifies the dehumanizing of women.

21 and fearless, Nadia Murad- an escaped fugitive- spoke at the UN with steadfast eyes and un-quivering when she said “we have the right to demand a global stance because we share other values of humanity…no religion accepts enslaving women and raping children”. Herein I will quote Barlas again where she says-

“To accept the authority of any group and then to resign oneself to its misreadings of Islam not only makes one complicit in the continued abuse of Islam and the abuse of women in the name of Islam”

The long standing institutions of patriarchy have sought to belittle and thereafter justify the demeaning of women for years, repeatedly. However, when the tolls of inequality are counted in terms of lives these intellectual debates seem perfunctory and even irrelevant.

Successful efforts have been made by various smugglers from the Kurdish community to bring some relief to a very small portion of these afflicted women. However, the fervor with which their destruction has been taken up, their fates cannot be assumed.


Article by Suman Quazi
Edited by Abhijan Gupta

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *