It is believed that IS beheaded and buried many of the women they held captive in Eastern Syria this week because the Syrian Democratic Front are closing in on the terrorist group's last strongholds in the region. There was no time to on-sell these captive women into the sex slave market and transporting them while on the run would have been too difficult.
The likely fate of the remaining 3000 women held captive by IS, however, is lifetime servitude in the sex slave market -- an income stream IS relies on to stay operational.
This week, Yazidi-Australians and their allies demonstrated in Wagga Wagga, Coffs Harbour and Toowoomba as part of simultaneous global protests calling on the UN and governments across the world to help free their sisters, daughters, cousins and friends.
Hundreds of people attended the demonstration in Wagga Wagga for which the Yazidi community worked with politicians, the multicultural council, police and other community members. Deputy Prime Minister and local MP, Michael McCormack said “the Yazidis have come to call Wagga Wagga their home and, in turn, they have enriched our community with their culture and traditions.”
Recent figures from the UN Office of Drugs and Crime show during the height of IS’s territorial control, the market in sexual slavery could have contributed up to $USD21million to the caliphate’s economy.
At present, it costs $USD20,000 to $30,000 for the community to buy back a former slave. With approximately 3000 women remaining in captivity across the region, IS have the potential to earn up to $US90 million from buy backs. This is at a time when the organisation has low costs and overheads but a dire need for diverse income streams to maintain deadly terrorism attacks across the globe.
Since August 2014, thousands of Yazidis have made their home in Australia under the humanitarian migration program. They have joined regional communities across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
When IS took control of their towns and villages across Syria and Iraq, thousands of men were killed, boys were forced to convert and become child soldiers, and thousands more women and girls were kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery.
Survivors like Delal, who now call Australia home, know what it’s like to suffer the life of a sex slave under IS. She was sold to the highest bidder in Iraq, brutally mistreated and tormented before fleeing and finding safety in Australia. Other women, who were held in servitude by Australians are seeking some sort of reparations for what they experienced.
They are entitled to justice under Australian law which prohibits sexual violence as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Yazidis, but so far not a single fighter has been prosecuted for these crimes.
The world watched when Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege received their Nobel Peace prizes “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict” but what both really want is an end to impunity.
Susan Hutchinson is a freelance contributor to Dateline. She is a PhD scholar at the ANU; a member of the Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security; and an architect of the Prosecute Don’t Perpetuate campaign.