“Another recruit reported that she was given in marriage to a jihadi who told her that as she was his gift, he could give her to his friends and colleagues. After she was passed around, and had fainted, she woke up in a strange safe house with several other women being trained for a jihadi mission. One girl refused and the instructors reported that she had been eviscerated and chopped up into several pieces.”
Human Trafficking is rife in the world today. When a country or region is devastated by intrastate or interstate conflict terrorist organisations and criminal gangs can prosper and grow to control vast areas of territory. Some examples include Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and Somalia. Governance of these regions are minimal in parts and these groups are claiming large swaths or land, money and people.
ISIS are mainly in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram largely operate in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab are located mainly in Somalia. These groups utilize the trafficking of persons and sexual violence as a way to terrorize the population but to also make an income for such groups. It is the clandestine nature of trafficking along with the current vacuum that exists in such regions as Syria and Iraq which has made the lawless region a breeding ground for the coercive movement of persons especially child brides.
Lured from the West?
According to a Hillary Rodham Clinton Law Fellow – Ashely Binetti; in 2015 there were approximately 3,400 Western fighters who joined the Islamic State in its quest for Sharia Law in the region. Interestingly, about 550 of these fighters were women. These women were lured there by the same means of exploitation that pedophiles use in online “grooming in Western countries; notably Social Media. Expert on female involvement in terrorist organisations – Mia Bloom stated “[It] is very similar in terms of platform, process, alienation of parents, [and] creating an environment of secrecy.”
Director of Inspire (womens rights ngo) – Sara Khan, goes further to say that “[the girls are] befriended online, told they’re loved, [and] showered with praise and flattery. These girls, like victims of child sexual exploitation, don’t see themselves as victims. They see themselves as girls going to be with men who genuinely love them.”
More recently, Sally Jones a British born fighter who is currently trapped in Syria since 2015 has experienced living the life of a jihadi radical; she has even recruited for ISIS. But now Sally Jones wants to get out of the situation she finds herself in. Her husband – Junaid Hussain conducted such digital operations for the group. He was killed by a drone in 2016. An anonymous Jihadist wife stated “She was crying and wants to get back to Britain but Isis is preventing her because she is now a military wife. She told me she wish to go to her country.” Currently Sally Jones is high on the list of US and UK drone targets.
In order to allow such radical group to survive for generations to come ISIS have turned to paying women for the cause. The women of ISIS are being paid (coerced) to deliver the next generation of fighters according to a report by the New York Post. For each “cub” which is born, the mother is paid $25.00 for each child per month, plus a $400 maternity bonus, and a $500 marriage bonus). As the fighting continues to rage across the Middle East and the horn of Africa it is clear that this strategic family planning incentive is to secure fighters for future generations.
It is evident that the internet is having significant effects on the reach and propaganda efforts of such terrorist groups. These female recruits are falling for the bait and lure of these men and can come from any location globally. One example highlights this when in late 2014 three teenage girls from Denver were taken into custody in Frankfurt Airport, thousands of miles away from the US. They were traveling to Syria. Later that year, another woman from the same state – Shannon Conley (19) was convicted with assisting a terrorist organization and was sentenced to four years in prison. It is with such developments that US and British Governments claim it is the reason their security departments have stepped up spying programmes on their own citizens; all illegal of course.
Life as a victim.
In Somalia and Kenya trafficking of persons is very common. The story of a girl called Faith highlights the real life experiences of being trafficking at a young age. When she was 16 years of age and approached by an elderly couple they offered her a job in Malindi on the coast of Kenya. In need of money, she took a bus along with many other people. All travelers were given water to drink; which was drugged. “When we regained consciousness, there were two men inside the room… They blindfolded us with black scarves. They raped us in that room.”
The next time Faith was drugged she woke up in an open area in a forest and was warned that if she attempted to leave she would be murdered. Out of pure fear, she could not bring herself to try to leave. The next three years were spent by Faith cooking for a number of Somali men. After becoming pregnant from being raped she had to deliver the child on her own in the forest in very dangerous circumstances. “My grandmother was a traditional midwife, so I had a little bit of knowledge… everything I was doing in that forest was alone, so I just had to get out this baby alone.”
Luckily Faith found a way out with her daughter after a traditional healer foraging for medicinal roots in the forest stumbled upon her and sent her in the right direction. As a result of living in a forest her child is finding re-integration into normal life difficult. Struggling with sleep at night unless she is outside in her mother’s arms. Unfortunately there are many victims who were not as lucky as Faith.
It is important to realize Human Trafficking is not an Islamic, Arab, African or Middle Eastern problem. Its is a global problem; where the weak and vulnerable are manipulated by criminal individuals and groups. It is estimated that over 20 million people are victims of some kind of forced labour and it is easy to see why when annual profits amount to $150 billion globally. Notably, even Ireland is effected. The Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 showed the amount of victims of trafficking in our small country has significantly grown from 78 in 2015 to 95 in 2016.
July 30th is UN anti-trafficking day and we ask you to share, like and comment on the issue. Shining a light on such activities may be the difference in somebody realising they are potential victims or maybe their friends or family are at risk. Unfortunately stories such as Faiths are not uncommon in areas where there is such a disregard for the law and human rights.
By James Fahey
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