Does Buying Sex Slaves Back From ISIS Fund Terrorism?

ISIS routinely traffics and sells captured women and girls. Is buying them back fueling more terrorism?

In a now famous New York Times article, Rukmini Callimachi tells the following harrowing story about a young girl held captive by ISIS:


"In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted."
"He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her."
"When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion."
"I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity."

In a horrific perversion of religious interpretation, ISIS routinely traffics and sells captured women and girls who are part of a religious minority group in Iraq known as the Yazidis. ISIS wrongly accuses them of being Satan worshippers as the Yazidis believe the devil to be a fallen angel who eventually was able to repent. And, therefore, ISIS allows their enslavement because they are mushriks (polytheists) and not protected under Quranic law.

In the fall of 2014, ISIS sought religious justification from its own clerics before engaging in the widespread enslavement of women within the group. In a pamphlet released by the group on the topic of female captives and slaves, ISIS addresses a number of questions: 

Is it permissible to have intercourse with a female captive?

"It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with the female captive. Allah the almighty said: '[Successful are the believers] who guard their chastity, except from their wives or (the captives and slaves) that their right hands possess, for then they are free from blame [Quran 23:5-6]'..."

Is it permissible to have intercourse with a female slave who has not reached puberty?

"It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn't reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse; however if she is not fit for intercourse, then it is enough to enjoy her without intercourse."

Is it permissible to beat a female slave?

"It is permissible to beat the female slave as a [form of] darb ta'deeb [disciplinary beating], [but] it is forbidden to [use] darb al-takseer [literally, breaking beating], [darb] al-tashaffi [beating for the purpose of achieving gratification], or [darb] al-ta'dheeb [torture beating]. Further, it is forbidden to hit the face."

The Times reports that 5,270 Yazidis were abducted in 2014 and at least 3,144 are still held prisoner. In an October 2014 decree, ISIS set the price at around $170 USD for children between the ages of one and nine. The price rises about $40 by every 10-year increase in age.

In an attempt to rescue Yazidi women and children from ISIS, Steve Maman, a Canadian businessman, launched The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq. Maman’s group solicits donations that he then uses to pay intermediaries to buy the enslaved women and children back from ISIS.

In an effort to raise funds, Maman set up a GoFundMe account. GoFundMe allows individuals to set up fundraising campaigns for just about any purpose. The site claims to have enabled groups and individuals to raise over $1 billion in the last year, with $4 million raised by users each day.

According to Foreign Policy, he had raised more than $500,000 before his campaign was shut down by the crowdfunding site. Through the actions of his group, he’s been accused of funding the same terrorists he’s rescuing the girls from. A spokesperson for GoFundMe told Foreign Policy “that this campaign may be violating local laws. ... We are suspending the campaign and are going to investigate further,” she said.

Maman feels differently.

“I’m not funding ISIS; I’m not dealing with ISIS; I’m not talking to ISIS; I’m not paying ISIS,” Maman said in an interview with Fox in August. He explained that his intermediaries negotiate the release of the kidnapped women and children by paying a few hundred dollars for each person. “So we’re not funding them; we’re refunding them; therefore ISIS is not getting anything from it.” Further, Maman claims that the amount of money his group expends for these women is negligible compared to ISIS’ overall financial position. “ISIS being a $4 billion entity ... I really don’t think that $2,000 or $3,000 is going to make a difference in making them [more] powerful than they are financially,”

Despite the fact that Maman may be violating Canadian terrorist financing laws, his actions are part of a larger dialog on rescuing trafficked women and children. Should we pay the traffickers for the return of the trafficked? Does buying sex slaves back from ISIS fund terrorist activity? If it does, do we participate in the furtherance of it, including the potential to fund the deaths of others, by rescuing and returning to safety children who are horrifically abused?

“You go tell a man that he can’t have his children back from ISIS when he’s been offered the opportunity because $3,000 might end up in the hands of a terrorist organization,” says Amy Beam, one-time broker for Maman’s group. “Go and tell that to his face; it’s obscene.”

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
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Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.