According to a report in the Syrian Kurdish Hawar news agency, the so-called Islamic State (IS) group has transferred more than 3,000 Yazidi women from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zor in the past five months.
Based on witness testimonies of people who recently fled the IS-held stronghold Raqqa in northern Syria, the report says there are two markets for selling Yazidi women kidnapped by the jihadist group from Iraq’s Kurdistan Region in 2014. One of the markets is to the east of the city, and the other in the south.
Witnesses told reporter Erdogan Altan that by reciting “Allah is the greatest” three times, men could complete the purchase of Yazidi women for so-called marriage. Most of the women were bought as servants and according to jihadist militants are “halal” meaning “allowed” for everyone who “fights in the name of Allah and Islam.”
According to the report as many as 3,485 women and girls have disappeared from Raqqa in the past 5 months and are thought to have been taken by leading jihadists towards Deir ez-Zor, a nearby city the group holds and is withdrawing to as US-backed forces close in on Raqqa. Some women and girls have been sold to merchants from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other countries, witnesses said.
Women, regardless of their ethnicity and faith are not allowed to travel without a male companion and are forced to wear burqas covering them entirely. According to the report residents call Raqqa, “an open prison for women.”
Thousands of Yazidi women were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery and trafficked by the extremist group in August 2014. The UN has called the displacement and killing of hundreds of thousands of Yazidis a genocide.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic group that includes thousands of women fighters, have completely surrounded Raqqa and are expected to storm the centre of the city in the coming weeks.
Thousands of women have been rescued from the jihadist group by the SDF since the launch of Operation Wrath of Euphrates in November 2016.