Eazidi Women's Practices of Empowerment and Capital Formation Following Enslavement by ISIS

Eazidi Women's Practices of Empowerment and Capital Formation Following Enslavement by ISIS

Kaziwa Salih (Queens' University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2819-8.ch027
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This chapter begins by surveying the historical context of rape in Iraq through the narrative of Eazidi women who escaped enslavement by ISIS. It then discusses the theology of rape in Islam, which has motivated ISIS to commit rape and legitimized the rape of Eazidi women. The chapter then theorizes the social capital of Middle Eastern women. The chapter argues that, for the first time, the Eazidi community in Iraq is altering the social consequences of rape by developing empowerment methods that amount to a social revolution within the Eazidi community. This empowerment not only protects Eazidi women survivors from experiencing common post-rape consequences but also increases their capital, in all its Bourdieusian forms.
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The struggle of women with rape in times of conflict and war dates back to antiquity. However, rape became a formal war crime in 1863 when the Lieber Instructions “classified rape as a crime of ‘troop discipline’” (Elis, 2007, p. 227). Scholarly attention to the sexual victimization of women in war and genocide began over a century later when the “first publications dealing with wartime rape as a deliberate strategy began circulation in early 1992” (Marochkin & Nelaeva, 2014, p.474). In 2015, Eazidi women who escaped sexual enslavement by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) became the first women in the Middle East to publicly question rape.

The scholarly study of sexual violence in war and genocide suffers from a lack of attention, resulting in a lack of understanding rape’s political impact and the further silencing of victims (Seelinger, 2017).Studying this form of violence is made difficult due to the unwillingness of legal and political authorities to prosecute offenders and the reluctance of the military to admit their involvement in the rape crime. Yet, the rape of women during genocide and war was common throughout the 20thcentury. Atrocities were committed against women, for instance, in Europe, during World War I, Armenian genocide beginning in 1915, and the countless rapes that occurred during World War II.The heinous rape committed by Japan during World War II of “comfort women” who came primarily from Korea, China, and the Philippines was a noxious instance of sexual slavery (Argibay, 2003).

Politically, the scholarly neglect of this topic can be seen as due to the widespread failure to recognize women’s rights. Especially prior to World War I, the role of western women was mainly “restricted to the domestic sphere, as housewives, servants, and occasionally in manufacturing, clothing and textiles” (Biagini, 2015, p. 168). The circumstances of women during World War I were contradictory and multifaceted. For example, the war transformed depiction of women and created various employment opportunities for them (Campbel, 1993; Carreiras, 2006). The war also changed the governmental and political functions of women when, in 1915 at the International Women’s Congress at The Hague, the notion of peacemaking women was born (Sharp, 2013). This congress wrapped up with the idea of sending delegates from the Congress as envoys to belligerent and neutral governments and to the President of the United States to demand peace (Addams et al., 2003). While the International Congress of Women opposed the assumption that women can be protected in warfare and can eliminate the causes of war, “it protest[ed] vehemently against the odious wrongs of which women are the victims in time of war, and especially against the horrible violation of women which attends all war” (Donovan, 2012, p. 58). Although violence against women during times of war intensified following the conference, women were unable to mount a follow-up conference. Moreover, subsequent media representations of women did not aid the women’s cause.

In general, prior to the formation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 1991 and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 1994, sexual crimes against women during war and genocide were ignored and silenced (Askin, 2003). In 2002, the World Health Organization (2012) estimated that globally at least 150 million girls and women are raped every year in conflict zones. Furthermore, less than 50% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police (Matthew & Floric, 2012). Gill Hague (2016) offers the following estimates of the scale of rape in conflict zones:

  • In Rwanda, up to 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide.

  • In Sierra Leone 60,000 women were raped during the civil war from 1991-2002.

  • In Bosnia, 60,000 women were raped from 1992-1995.

  • In Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 200,000 women wereraped in a decade of conflict.

  • In Liberia, 40,000 women were raped and mutilated (1989-2003). In a report published by the United Nations Office for Human Rights (2012) states that “between 61.4 and 77.4 per cent of women and girls in Liberia were raped during the war.”

Key Terms in this Chapter

Anfal Genocide: The Anfal Kurdish genocide by the Ba’ath party that began in 1986 and lasted until 1988 wherein as many as182,000 Kurds were buried alive in mass graves, hundreds of thousands of civilians, the majority of whom were women and children, were displaced.

Genocide: Acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. It may be killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

ISIS: Acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL. It is a terrorist organization that follows a radical, fundamentalist jihadist that earned global prominence since 2014.

Religious Power: It describes the way in which the dominant group rationalize its authority over minority by means of religion. Such as genocide of the Ezidi group and enslavement of their women under the title of religious power.

Pedophilic Rituals: Is the adult-exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Pedophilic ritual describes sexual practice and sexual assault of adult with children.

Eazidi Women: Female members of Ezidi community, the religious group in Iraq.

Baath Regime: It describes the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, founded on April 7, 1947. The party held power in Iraq and Syria and established branches in almost every Arab country.

Troop Discipline: Method of leading the troops. For example, when rape is classified as the troop discipline, it means the rape is a preplanned strategy and troops are trained to perpetrate it.

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