The hallowed existence of women in the Islamic State

From last month – life for women under Daesh control.

Residents of Mosul, Raqqa and Deir el-Zour have told the Guardian in interviews conducted by phone and Skype that women are forced to be accompanied by a male guardian, known as a mahram, at all times, and are compelled to wear double-layered veils, loose abayas and gloves.

Their testimonies follow the publication this month of an Isis “manifesto” to clarify the “realities of life and the hallowed existence of women in the Islamic State”. It said that girls could be married from the age of nine, and that women should only leave the house in exceptional circumstances and should remain “hidden and veiled”.

That’s a “hallowed existence” all right – handed over to be sex slaves at age 9, and muffled in head-to-foot bags for life. The only thing more hallowed is a rotting corpse.

Sama Maher, 20, a resident of Raqqa who has been detained several times by Isis religious police, known as Hisbah, for violating Isis rules, said: “It is prohibited for a woman in Raqqa or Deir el-Zour to move anywhere outside without a mahram, a male guardian. It is a big problem as I do not have any, we are only five sisters.”

Well then she can’t go outside, obviously. This isn’t rocket science.

Daesh has closed universities, too, she says.

In Mosul, Isis published a charter within weeks of taking taking control of the city, restricting women’s movements and imposing dress requirements. Women were instructed to wear a Saudi-style black veil of two layers to conceal their eyes and a loose robe designed by Isis after it said some abayas revealed body outlines.

Many women initially objected to the Isis order but complied when they realised they could be beaten, humiliated and fined, and their husbands might be punished. Men are now forcing their wives and daughters to stay at home to avoid confrontations with Hisbah, which issues orders via the internet or by posting written statements at shops warning against violations of Islamic rules in the city.

Diary of Anne Frank, innit.

In Raqqa, the Isis “capital” in Syria, women were initially ordered to wear a black abaya covering the entire body. Soon after, a command to wear a veil was issued, then a third ordered a shield on top of the abaya. Women are also instructed to wear only black, including gloves and shoes. Isis subsequently ordered women to hide their eyes, requiring a a double-layered veil.

Then they ordered women to add a horse blanket, then a diving bell, then a tank, then they said the hell with it and buried them all 50 feet deep.

Mosul resident Sabah Nadiem said: “I went once with my wife to one of the old souqs to do some shopping, and after a short while I lost her among the crowd. The problem was that all the women were wearing veils and it was hard to know who was my wife.”

No problem, just grab all their butts until you recognize one.

In Deir el-Zour in Syria, the rules for female pupils and students appear to be stricter. “Little girls in primary schools have to wear an abaya until the 4th class, when they have to wear a veil too,” said Sali Issam, 15, a secondary school student. “Though all the teachers in girls’ schools are female, neither students nor teachers are allowed to lift the veil of their faces inside the classroom.”

Well you know what sluts girls are when they’re six.

Women in labour in maternity hospitals in Mosul are forced to comply with dress codes. “When I was in labour, I went to the hospital wearing a veil though it was too hot. Isis Hisbah were at the front door of the hospital. I saw some women in labour who seemed to be in a panic and did not have time to wear a veil. I was shocked to see that they were denied access to the hospital unless they put veils on their faces,” said Salah.

It’s kind of sad that the newborns all die because no one is allowed to get at them.

Buses are also stopped for passengers to be checked. If a woman is found without required dress or mahram, all passengers are forced to disembark and the bus is refused permission to proceed. “If Hisbah spot a woman without a mahram in a bus, the whole bus is evacuated and sent back because the driver accepted her,” said Maher.

In Mosul, single women are not allowed to be the last passenger on a bus, alone with the driver. Women are forced to get off buses before their destination if there are no other passengers present. Bassma Adel, 35, who works in a bank, had to get off a bus to avoid being alone with the driver even though she was not near her home.

“I had to walk to my house though the distance was long in inclement weather. One of my male colleagues passed by his car and offered to give me a lift. We drove for a short distance before we were spotted by Hisbah. They asked us for a document that proves my colleague was a mahram to me. When we failed to do that, they reproached us for being together in the car and humiliated us and ordered me to step down.”

There’s just no end to it, the relentless determination to make women’s lives shitty and difficult and degrading, down to the smallest detail.

Recently Isis ordered all female hairdressers to be shut down in Mosul. Samah Nasir, 43, had her own hairdressing shop for more than nine years – the only source of income for her three children as her husband is ill and unable to work. “I decided to reopen my shop despite the Isis embargo because I had nothing to feed my children and pay for my husband’s medications.”

Shortly after, Hisbah broke in her house and took her and her husband to a sharia court. “The judge ruled that I should pay $1,500 [£977] as a fine and get 10 lashes on the bottom of my feet in one of the rooms in the sharia court. I have not been in such a situation all my life.” Now Nasir rarely leaves her house.

Where she and her children and her husband are starving to death – or were when this was written; no doubt they’re all dead now.

All the names were changed.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Why does Islam make men so weak that they need this much protection against losing self-control?

  2. quixote says

    “It’s kind of sad that the newborns all die because no one is allowed to get at them.”

    Well, yes, but the much greater harm of a possibly unveiled female newborn is prevented. So yay. Right?

  3. brett says

    Reminds me of Laura Agustin’s writings about how in extremely patriarchal societies, the bodies of women become an obsession and much-focused on “boundary” to police and control.

  4. lorn says

    I suspect that this analysis is one sided, but perhaps not in the way most might assume.

    If history and human nature are any clue I think it is safe to assume women held as an ideal, kept apart, cloistered, protected and pure is only one side. There are clues, in reports of ISIS fighters taking female slave, “wives”, and women being used as rewards and them being handed around like a joint at a party. Together they would seem to forma classic Madonna/whore binary with females forced to straddle the divide where none are allowed to physically. mentally, socially inhabit anything but the absolutes at both ends. The Catch-22, as always, no matter how well women might seek to cling to the ideal to find protection and certainty, it will never be enough because we are talking about real human beings seeking to emulate ideals. It is Zeno’s paradox played out in the field of social/religious morality with failure, and indebtedness to the judges, as the only likely outcome.

  5. carbonfox says

    I like how apparently (according to the article) they exempt women over 45 from wearing veils…because obviously older women are too hideous to do whatever horrid thing it is that young women’s faces do. Although, as the article mentioned, in practice 45+ women still must wear veils because not doing so could attract deadly attention.

  6. says

    Feminists, world leaders, men, everyone must speak out loudly and repeatedly against the following:
    1) Female genital mutilation
    2) Punishing rape victims
    3) Honor killing
    4) Strapping bombs to children
    5) Sexually enslaving women
    6) Murdering homosexuals
    7) Child marriage
    8) Domestic Violence
    9) Disciplining or Punishing Wives

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