Human rights in ISIL-controlled territory

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The state of human rights in territories controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is considered to be one of the worst in modern history, and has been criticised by many political, religious and other organisations and individuals. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has stated that ISIL "seeks to subjugate civilians under its control and dominate every aspect of their lives through terror, indoctrination, and the provision of services to those who obey".[1]

UN determinations[edit]

In November 2014, the UN's Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic said that ISIL was committing crimes against humanity and that the group "seeks to subjugate civilians under its control and dominate every aspect of their lives through terror, indoctrination, and the provision of services to those who obey."[2] In October 2015, the UN Human Rights Council "strongly condemn[ed] the terrorist acts and violence committed against civilians by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Daesh), al-Nusrah Front and other extremist groups, and their continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, and reaffirm[ed] that terrorism, including the actions of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Daesh), cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilization."[3]

Statements of human rights groups[edit]

A report by Human Rights Watch in November 2014 accused ISIL militants in Libya's Derna of war crimes and human rights abuses and of terrorizing residents. Human Rights Watch documented three apparent incidents in which captives were killed and at least ten public floggings by the Islamic Youth Shura Council, which joined ISIL in November. It also documented the beheading of three Derna residents and dozens of seemingly politically motivated assassinations of judges, public officials, members of the security forces and others. Sarah Leah Watson, Director of HRW Middle East and North Africa, said: "Commanders should understand that they may face domestic or international prosecution for the grave rights abuses their forces are committing."[4]

Amnesty International has held ISIL responsible for the ethnic cleansing of ethnic and religious minority groups in northern Iraq on a "historic scale". It issued a special report in late 2014 describing how ISIL has "systematically targeted non-Arab and non-Sunni Muslim communities, killing or abducting hundreds, possibly thousands, and forcing more than 830,000 others to flee the areas it has captured since 10 June 2014". Among these people are Assyrian Christians, Turkmen Shia, Shabak Shia, Yazidis, Kaka'i and Sabean Mandeans, who have lived together for centuries in Nineveh province, large parts of which are now under ISIL's control.[5][6]

Genocide and other war crimes[edit]

ISIL's crimes of murder, ethnic cleansing, enslavement and rape[7] against Shia,[8][9] Christian,[10][11][12][13][14][15][16] and Yazidi[17][18] minorities within its territories have been recognized as a genocide. There are also many Sunni Muslim victims of ISIS.

One captured ISIS fighter boasted about raping over 200 women from Iraq's minority groups and killing over 500 people and claimed he was encouraged to do so by the leadership.[19]

On occasions ISIL executed women who refused to have sex with its fighters.[20][21]

Shia Muslims[edit]

Despite being the religious majority in Iraq, Shia Muslims who predominantly inhabit the country's south have been killed in large numbers by ISIL.[22] By June 2014, ISIL had already claimed to have killed 1,700 Shia Muslims.[22] ISIL, attempting to create a Sunni Muslim caliphate, has labelled all Shia Muslims infidels.[22] As a result, they have specifically targeted Shia communities.[23] According to witnesses, after the militant group took the city of Mosul, they divided the Sunni prisoners from the Shia prisoners.[23] 650 Shia prisoners were then taken to another location and executed.[23] Kurdish officials in Erbil have reported similar incidents where Sunni and Shia prisoners were separated and Shia prisoners were killed.[23] Shia are sometimes burned alive.[24]


Iraqi Christians, the majority being the Chaldean Christians of Northern Iraq, have also been targeted by ISIL.[22] The group tells Christians they must either convert to Islam, pay a fine, or face execution.[22] ISIL has also taken Qaraqosh, Iraq's largest Christian city.[22] Christians who fled the city reported summary executions and mass beheadings.[25] Some have also been kidnapped and held for ransom.[25] Others have been publicly whipped for refusing to convert to Islam.[25] Many Christians have been displaced and have fled their villages to escape ISIL.[22] The group has also systematically destroyed Christian churches and shrines.[26] ISIL fighters have destroyed and vandalized many Christian monuments, and they have taken down crosses from the tops of churches, replacing them with ISIL flags.[27] They've marked Christian homes with an Arabic "N" which stands for "Nasrane", a word used by Muslims to describe followers of the Christian faith.[25]


Images from top, left and right: Yazidi refugees receiving support from the International Rescue Committee. A member of the U.S. Mt. Sinjar Assessment Team being greeted by locals near Sinjar, Iraq. Bundles of water inside a C-17 Globemaster III before a humanitarian airdrop by the United States Air Force

The persecution of Yazidis has been labelled a genocide. This religious sect has been subjected to massacres, forced conversion, forced exile, rape,[28] torture, slavery, sexual slavery,[7] and forced conscription. There have been numerous massacres in attacks on Yazidi villages. In many of the massacres, militants separate the men from the women.[29] Afterward, the men are lined up at checkpoints along the side of the road, shot, and bulldozed into mass graves.[29] Sometimes, men are also given the option of converting to Islam or being executed, so there have been many instances of both forced conversions and killings for refusal to convert to ISIL's version of Islam.[29] Other Yazidi men have been forced into Yazidi temples and blown up inside or taken into captivity.[29] Yezidi boys taken captive are typically forced to become ISIL fighters.[30]

Yazidi women and children have also faced persecution at the hands of ISIL. Yazidi women and girls have been subjected to systematic rape, forced marriage, child marriage, and sexual slavery.[30] Some of them have been as young as eight years old.[30] These "marriages" are often abusive, and the captives are often raped by multiple men, typically friends of their captors.[30] They believe that if a woman is raped by ten ISIL fighters, she will become Muslim.[31] Some are chosen through "lotteries" in which ISIL fighters draw names in order to choose which captive to rape.[30] Many have also been sold as sex slaves to ISIL fighters.[32] There are also reports that women forced into sex slavery have been subjected to forced abortions.[31] Many of these captives have tried to take their own lives.[33]

Sinjar Massacre[edit]

The Sinjar massacre was the killing and abduction of thousands[34][35][36] of Yazidi men in Sinjar (Kurdish: شنگالŞingal) city and Sinjar District in Iraq's Nineveh Governorate by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in August 2014. This event started with ISIL attacking and capturing Sinjar and neighboring towns on 3 August, during ISIL's offensive in early August 2014.

The New York Times reported on 7 August 2014 that ISIL had executed dozens of Yazidi men in Sinjar city and had taken their wives for unmarried jihadi fighters.[37] It was also reported that ISIL fighters executed over ten caretakers of Shia Sayeda Zeinab shrine in Sinjar before blowing it up.[38]

While the siege of Mount Sinjar was continuing, ISIL killed hundreds of Yazidis in at least six of the nearby villages. 250–300 men were killed in the village of Hardan, 200 between Adnaniya and Jazeera, 70–90 in Qiniyeh, and on the road out of al-Shimal witnesses reported seeing dozens of bodies.[39] Hundreds of others had also been killed for refusing to convert to Islam.[35]

On 15 August 2014, in the Yazidi village of Khocho, south of Sinjar, after the whole population had received the jihadist ultimatum to convert or be killed, over 80 men were killed.[40][41] A witness recounted that the villagers were first converted under duress,[42] but when the village elder refused to convert, all of the men were taken in trucks under the pretext of being led to Sinjar, and gunned down along the way.[43] According to reports from survivors interviewed by OHCHR, on 15 August, the entire male population of the Yazidi village of Khocho, up to 400 men, were rounded up and shot by ISIL, and up to 1,000 women and children were abducted.

On the same day, up to 200 Yazidi men were reportedly executed for refusing conversion in a Tal Afar prison.[39] The massacres took place at least until 25 August when ISIL executed 14 elderly Yazidi men in Sheikh Mand Shrine in Jidala, western Sinjar, and blew up the shrine there.[44]

40,000 or more Yazidis were trapped in the Sinjar Mountains and mostly surrounded by ISIL forces[45] who were firing on them.[46] They were largely without food, water or medical care,[47] facing starvation and dehydration.

Death toll[edit]

By 2014, a U.N. Humans Rights commission counted that 9,347[48] civilians had been murdered by ISIL in Iraq, then however; by 2016 a second report by the United Nations estimated 18,802[49] deaths. The Sinjar massacre in 2014 resulted in the killings of between 2,000[36][50] and 5,000[35] civilians.

Slave trade[edit]

ISIL announced the revival of slavery as an institution.[51] In 2015, the official slave prices set by ISIL were following:[52][53]

  • Children aged 1 to 9 were sold for 200,000 dinars ($169).
  • Women and children 10 to 20 years old for 150,000 dinars ($127).
  • Women 20 to 30 years old for 100,000 dinar ($85).
  • Women 30 to 40 years old are 75,000 dinar ($63).
  • Women 40 to 50 years old for 50,000 dinar ($42).

However, some slaves have been sold for as little as a pack of cigarettes.[54] Sex slaves were sold to Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf countries and Turkey.[55][56]

LGBT rights[edit]

Allegations of organ trafficking[edit]

The group released a fatwa permitting the removal of organs from non-Muslim captives.[57] The document says that "The apostate's life and organs don't have to be respected and may be taken with impunity."[57] The document seems to define apostate as non-Muslim though Shia Muslim captives may also be endangered by the fatwa due to ISIL's extreme interpretation of Islam.[57] The document also claims ISIL authorizes the removal of organs from captives even when it may kill them.[57] Iraq has accused the group of harvesting human organs for profit.[57]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria" (PDF). United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 February 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  2. ^ Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic: Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria, 14 November 2014. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Human Rights Council Resolution 30/10. The grave and deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, 1 October 2015.
  4. ^ "Libya: Extremists Terrorizing Derna Residents". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Iraq crisis: Islamic State accused of ethnic cleansing". BBC News. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  7. ^ a b Callimachi, Rukmini (2015-08-13). "ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  8. ^ "Remarks on Daesh and Genocide". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  9. ^ Amanda Holpuch. "John Kerry: Isis is committing genocide in Syria and Iraq". the Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  10. ^ Moore, Jack (February 4, 2016). "European Parliament Recognizes ISIS Killing of Religious Minorities as Genocide". Newsweek.
  11. ^ Kaplan, Michael (February 4, 2016). "ISIS Genocide Against Christians, Yazidis? European Parliament Recognizes Islamic State Targeting Religious Minorities". International Business Times. The European Parliament characterized the persecution as "genocide" Thursday.
  12. ^ JOINT MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION, European Parliament
  13. ^ MEPs call for urgent action to protect religious minorities against ISIS, European Parliament
  14. ^ Bruton, F. Brinley (March 17, 2016). "Kerry: ISIS Is Committing Genocide Against Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims". NBC News.
  15. ^ House Unanimously Passes Fortenberry ISIS Genocide Resolution, Mar 15, 2016
  16. ^ "Isis is committing genocide against Yazidis and Christians, British MPs unanimously declare". 21 April 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  17. ^ Gonzalez, David (2016-11-30). "Documenting the Genocide of Iraq's Yazidis". Lens Blog. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  18. ^ "UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria: ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidis". United Nations - Office of the High Commissioner. 16 June 2016.
  19. ^ "Captive Islamic State militant says mass rapes were 'normal'". Reuters. 2017-02-17. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
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  33. ^ "'Hundreds' of Yazidis killing selves in ISIS slavery". CNN. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  34. ^ Cetorelli, Valeria (9 May 2017). "Mortality and kidnapping estimates for the Yazidi population in the area of Mount Sinjar, Iraq, in August 2014: A retrospective household survey". PLOS Medicine. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002297. PMC 5423550. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  35. ^ a b c Spencer, Richard (14 October 2014). "Isil carried out massacres and mass sexual enslavement of Yazidis, UN confirms". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
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  47. ^ Cite error: The named reference cnn was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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