A virgin is worth $100 on the slave market; a mother only $10 • Women are forced to convert to Islam and then turned into sex slaves • Thousands of Kurdish and Yazidi women held by Islamic State are learning that modern slavery is alive and kicking.Every evening, silence reigns in the Khanke refugee camp, close to the Kurdish city of Dohuk in northern Iraq. Winter has already arrived, bringing with it rain, mud and cold.
Although a fire has been lit for warmth, it is potentially dangerous. A Yazidi family — men, women, elderly people and children — is crowded into each tent. The tents afford no protection from the rain, and if any should catch fire, they would immediately turn into death traps. About 60,000 Yazidis — adherents of an ancient faith that contains elements of Sufism, Kharijism and Zoroastrianism and Kurdish by culture and language — live in this camp. Last summer they managed to survive and escape from Mount Sinjar, which had been taken over by the Islamic State group. Every person at the camp knows someone who has been killed or wounded or is missing. Every person has a sister, wife or daughter who was kidnapped and raped.
Some of them have already seen the video footage on YouTube showing the modern slave markets in Syria and Iraq and the women who have fallen into bondage. According to these video clips and the accounts that are trickling out of Raqqah, the caliphate’s capital in Syria, and from Mosul, its stronghold in Iraq, the women are sold at auction to the highest bidder. Prices vary — virgins are worth $100, while women who have borne children fetch roughly $10. The members of Islamic State, fanatical jihadists who base themselves on texts from the Koran, regard the Yazidis as idol-worshippers who may be bought and sold like sheep.