Iraqis living in Lebanon told Al-Shorfa they are outraged that the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) has been forcing women in northern Iraq to marry its fighters for "sexual jihad".
Earlier this month, the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights said it has recorded a number of ISIL violations against Iraqi women.
These include forcing several women to "satisfy the sexual desires of the group's fighters, or what is known as the 'sexual jihad fatwa', and forcing minors to marry them", ministry spokesman Kamel Amine said.
Also this month, UN undersecretary general and executive director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka announced that four Iraqi women have committed suicide after being raped or forced to marry ISIL fighters.
"What is happening is a disgrace," said Mona Mahdi, a 21-year-old university student studying hotel management who has been living with her family in Lebanon for the past seven years.
Mahdi left Iraq when she was 14 but still keeps pictures of her life in Baghdad, which she remembers as a socially and culturally developed city.
"We cannot, in the third millennium, turn back decades to what ISIL proclaims," she said. "ISIL and its so-called caliph cannot govern us in the name of religion, enforce rulings on us that have nothing to do with human rights, or impose their humiliating laws on Iraqi women."
"Every girl has a future lying ahead of her and she should be able to decide the course of her life," she said. "So how does ISIL, this terrorist group, have the right to force something so unimaginable on her and end her life before it has even begun?"
A VIOLATION OF HONOUR AND PRINCIPLES:
ISIL's treatment of girls in Ninawa and Mosul is "a flagrant violation of honour and principles", said her brother, Zain Mahdi, a university professor.
"Sexual jihad is foreign to Iraqi traditions," he said.
It is "not part of our values or traditions. It is outright prostitution and a response to perverse desires", he added.
Mahdi called on Iraqi society to counter this "corrupt and abominable phenomenon", adding that Iraqis will not give up their current way of life.
"[ISIL] wants to establish a caliphate that has nothing to do with Islam, which respects man and safeguards and respects women's rights," he said.
"Iraq has always been a model for openness […]. We are a people who love life and modernity, and will not accept to be returned to rigid eras, regimes and habits that change our lifestyles," Mahdi said.
"ISIL is foreign to us and has to be destroyed before it preys on the honour of women and girls," university student Assil Flaih, who is studying business management at the American University of Science and Technology in Beirut, told Al-Shorfa.
Iraqis cannot live under the rule of a caliphate that would put an end to modern life and the rule of civil law, Flaih said.
"We will not return our Iraq to laws that insult women and undermine their dignity, and we will not give up the modern civil life we have reached," she said.
ISLAM HONOURS AND RESPECTS WOMEN:
Islam honours women and acknowledges their right to education, work and having an opinion, which is the opposite of what ISIL is preaching, said Dahlia al-Jaddouh, an Iraqi housewife and mother of two girls.
"ISIL is sanctioning what is forbidden and forbidding what is sanctioned," she said. "Iraqi women and girls are educated and cultured and live their own lives. They can decide who to marry."
"There is no place in our Iraqi society for the 'Islamic caliphate' that ISIL is preaching, and there is no place for the rulings it is imposing on Iraqi women who are clinging to their constitutionally-enshrined civil rights," she said.
Al-Jaddouh said she resents the rules ISIL is attempting to impose in Mosul, and is worried it will impose a lifestyle that is alien to Iraq's traditions and religion.
"What is happening to our girls at the hands of these barbarians who do not fear God is a disgrace," she said. "How can they impose something forbidden and violate the honour of girls and women to the extent that some of them try to commit suicide?"
"How can we accept the caliphate of ISIL, which claims to be Muslim but wants to impose everything that would turn us into sex slaves to them?" she said. "We reject their caliphate, and let them take their evil away from us."
Lebanese lawyer Manar Zuaiter, a member of the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, said that fundamentalist forces such as ISIL are targeting women, the "most marginalised segment of society", in order to demonstrate their control.
Sexual jihad is the most hideous forms of abuse against women because it includes all forms of physical and legal violence, she said.
"This cannot go on and should not be granted religious legitimacy, because what ISIL is forcing on women is considered to be a culture of terrorism and primitive minds that seek to control women," she said.
Credit- Nohad Topalian in Beirut
Image Credit- [Safin Hamed/AFP]