The advertisement on the Telegram app as chilling. A a girl for sale is “Virgin. Beautiful. 12 years old … Her price has reached $12,500 and she will be sold soon.”
The posting in Arabic appeared on an encrypted conversation along with ads for kittens, weapons and tactical gear. It was shared by an activist with the minority Yazidi community, whose women and children are being held as sex slaves by ISIL.
While the extremist group is losing territory in its self-styled caliphate, it is tightening its grip on an estimated 3,000 women and girls held as sex slaves.
In a fusion of ancient barbaric practices and modern technology, ISIL sells the women like chattel on smartphone apps and shares databases that contain their photographs and the names of their “owners” to prevent their escape through ISIL checkpoints.
Yazidi women and children were taken prisoner in August 2014, when ISIL fighters overran their villages in northern Iraq with the aim to eliminate the Kurdish-speaking minority because of its ancient faith. Since then, Arab and Kurdish smugglers have managed to free an average of 134 people a month. But by May, an ISIL crackdown reduced those numbers to just 39 in the past six weeks, according to figures provided by the Kurdistan regional government.
Mirza Danai, founder of the German-Iraqi aid organisation Luftbrucke Irak, said escape had become more difficult and dangerous in the last two or three months.
“They register every slave, every person under their owner, and therefore if she escapes, every Daesh control or checkpoint, or security force – they know that this girl … has escaped from this owner,” he said.