The Emigrant Sisters Return: The Growing Role of the Islamic State’s Women

During the Islamic State’s (ISIL) brief but bloody rule as a self-described caliphate, it boasted of keeping Yazidi women as sex slaves. Female Yazidis were subjected to forced conversions, while Sunni women in areas under ISIL’s control were subjected to the militant group’s draconian restrictions. After interviewing female Sunnis who fled ISIL’s misrule, Human Rights Watch reported, “all of the Sunni women and girls reported severe restrictions on their clothing and freedom of movement,” and were further “only allowed to leave their houses dressed in full face veil (niqab) and accompanied by a close male relative.” Even women who joined the organization and lived voluntarily in ISIL-held territory were required to adhere to strict and repressive rules about a woman’s role in society. Yet as the caliphate collapsed, women appeared to start playing a greater part in ISIL’s military operations than the group had previously allowed. The role played by the women of ISIL may continue to grow.