Link Between Men Lining Up for Food and Men Lining Up to Buy Girls?

Members of ISIS ride through the streets, waving their flag and raising their arms in victory.

He calls it an act of worship. 

Utterly committed in his devotion, he strictly follows the rule book—first kneeling to pray, committing his actions to God. Maybe he bought the young Yazidi girl lying on his bed. Maybe he received her as a reward for being such a good soldier for ISIS. It hardly matters to the young girl. All she she knows is that she is about to be raped, and her owner tells her that it will please God. 

People join ISIS for different reasons. Some join for ideological reasons—they dream of living in a land with like minded-people, all as devoted to following God as themselves. They dream of living in a place where they don't have to worry that their children will be corrupted by those who believe differently. They dream of communities with black and white rules, where everyone knows where they stand. And they are willing to kill to get it.

They come into the ISIS fold and are quickly immersed in the twisted theology that cuts all ties with friends and family who aren’t believers. The immersion slowly makes the beheading of prisoners seem normal and the public execution of gays sensical. And for too many, this same twisted theology makes the sexual slavery of young Yazidi girls one of the perks of joining.

Long lines of men wait as patiently as they can for food assistance in a part of Iraq besieged by ISIS.

There are other reasons why people join ISIS though. They join because ISIS seems like the best available option—because they are exhausted from being traumatized by regional militias who target them for being the wrong kind of Muslim. They join because they know that in conquered places like Mosul, ISIS continues to pay the road workers, nurses, and garbage collectors, and provide fairly decent social services—while many Iraqis work for months without receiving their pay and lack basic services like electricity and water. They join because their community has been surrounded by ISIS for so long that their children are starving and they can't bear it another day. 

New residents under ISIS aren’t "members of ISIS" but they do become part of the military machine that besieges communities—where young women and girls are separated from the rest and shipped off to slave markets.

Long lines of men hungry for food can become long lines of men hungry to buy girls. 

We are creating a programme of psychosocial and relief assistance for escaped and freed Yazidi girls—this is critical. But in the rush to help, we can't forget what is most essential: keeping girls safe in the first place.

This week the UN announced that their programme for food aid in Iraq was so seriously underfunded that food rations have been cut in half for nearly 1 million Iraqi refugees. Nearly 1 million hungry, desperate people just got a little more desperate.

Long lines of men wait as patiently as they can for food aid, in an area of Iraq besieged by ISIS.

This is so painful to see, not only because of the hunger element, but because of the wider implications. Desperate people do what they have to do to survive. The more hungry people are–like the thousands of displaced families staying in the desert beside Bzebez bridge–the more they look to ISIS, or grow too exhausted and lose the capacity to fight ISIS. Then ISIS has more constituents in their ranks to be foot soldiers for their cause.

Food aid is still an essential component to assisting in Iraq. When you donated funds for food aid for Haditha, you made it possible for that besieged community to hold out a little longer against ISIS. You give desperate men a way out, minimize the numbers vulnerable to recruitment, and ultimately protecte minority girls who have been targeted in the most heinous way.

We aren’t helpless to do something.

About Erin Wilson

Communications Officer for Preemptive Love Coalition, based in Iraq. Photographer + artist, storyteller + story gatherer, peace maker + bridge builder, student + teacher, unrepentant lover of unexpected beauty.

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