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Sexual jihad (Arabic: جهاد النكاح, jihad al-nikah) refers to the purported practice in which Sunni women sympathetic to the Islamic State travel to the battlefields and are allegedly voluntarily offering themselves to rebels fighting the Bashar al Assad government in Syria to be "married" repeatedly in a mut'a marriage (temporary marriage), serving sexual comfort roles to help boost the fighters' morale.
Publicity first arose in 2013, and the veracity of the alleged practice became the subject of greater debate in September 2013 after the Interior Minister of Tunisia made a public statement identifying it as a significant issue. Critics dismissed claims of "sexual jihad" as unfounded and political propaganda.
Reports and allegations
The concept allegedly originated in a fatwa titled Jihad ul Nikaah and attributed to Saudi Wahhabi cleric Sheikh Mohamad al-Arefe around 2013, that called for Sunni women supporters to come forward for sex jihad and boost the mujaheddin fighting the Bashar al Assad regime in Syria. Sources close to Sheikh Mohammad al-Arefe denied issuing the fatwa. Sheikh al-Arefe himself has denied allegations that he issued such a fatwa, dismissing it on his Twitter account as a "fabrication", and stressing that anyone who circulates or believes it is insane.
Allegations of this practice are related to the Tunisian government's war effort against Al Qaida-linked terrorism in the mountainous Jebel ech Chambi region bordering Algeria. The Tunisian coalition government alleges that the practice began with Tunisian girls sympathetic to the Islamic jihad movement there, and then spread with Tunisian girls volunteering comfort to Syrian jihadis.
In April 2013, the Grand Mufti of Tunisia, Othman Battikh, alleged that Tunisian girls were visiting Syria to take part in a sexual jihad. In July 2013, President Moncef Marzouki replaced him as Mufti with Battikh alleging that he was replaced as punishment for speaking out. The Tunisian allegation is that this practice is based on the concept that "the Law of Necessity allows forbidden things in exceptional circumstances." On the basis of the fatwa, it was reported in Tunisian media that young Tunisian Sunni Muslim girls traveled to Syria to comfort jihadis. At least thirteen Tunisian girls were reported to have traveled to the rebel-held north Syria for sex jihad.
In July 2013, on a Facebook page claiming to be connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, a commentator allegedly promoted "sexual jihad". The page has been deemed a "hoax," and a senior Muslim Brotherhood supported called the page a "smear campaign".
On September 19, 2013, Lofti bin Jeddou, the Interior Minister of Tunisia stated in the National Constituent Assembly that Sunni Tunisian women traveling to Syria for sex jihad were having sex with 20, 30 and even up to 100 rebels, and that some of the women had returned home pregnant. On October 6, 2013, a Tunisian official downplayed this prior claim, saying at most 15 Tunisian women traveled to Syria, though some were forced to have sex with several Islamist militants.
The Tunisian Jihadist Abu Qusay who was interviewed by Tunisian TV after his return from Syria confirmed that stories about "Jihad al-Nikah" or what is also referred to as "sexual Jihad" are not just a rumors but are real, as he himself had experienced it firsthand. He also confirmed the nationalities of the girls who travel to Syria to partake in this kind of Jihad. But some sources cast doubt on his story, and said he was never in Syria.
According to some media outlets, after this supposed fatwa ISIL fighters allegedly told families to "hand over [their] daughters for sex". Despite Sheikh Mohamad al-Arefe's denial, the Daily Mirror reported that "leaflets in the captured cities of Mosul and Tikrit claim the women—virgins or not—must join jihad (...) and cleanse themselves by sleeping with militants. Those that refuse to do so are violating God’s will, it is claimed, and will be beaten or killed. ISIL fighters have been taking women captive in Syria since last year  when a Saudi-based cleric issued a fatwa (...) telling them to." It has also been suggested that Sunni women from Australia, the United Kingdom and Malaysia have voluntarily joined ISIL as comfort women.
In June 2014, it was reported by the Egyptian Daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that a Kuwaiti television show "Kuwait wa al-Nas" had reported that activists on social media were circulating reports that the Islamist group ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) put up posters calling on the people of Mosul to bring them their unmarried girls to participate in “jihad al-nikah” or sex jihad. The statement was not independently verified by either Al-Masry Al-Youm or by Kuwait wa al-Nas.
In December 2014, the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights announced that one member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant had killed at least 150 females, including pregnant women, in Fallujah who allegedly refused to participate in sexual jihad. No images have surfaced of the alleged massacre, and no one has been able to independently verify it.
On October 7, 2013, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that "sex jihad" to Syria was "an elaborate disinformation campaign by the Assad regime to distract international attention from its own crimes."
Hilmi M. Zawati, an international criminal law and human rights jurist, argues that the fatwa was fabricated and widely disseminated by the Syrian regime and its allies with the aim of tarnishing and stigmatizing the jihadist rebels among the conservative community in Syria.
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- Noah Rayman (20 September 2013). "Tunisian women go on 'sex jihad' to Syria, minister says". Time. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
- Salama, Vivian (25 September 2013). Are Arab Women Flocking To Syria For 'Sex Jihad'?, The Daily Beast
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- Jay, Martin (4 April 2013). "Tunisian girls 'head to Syria to offer themselves to Islamic fighters as part of sexual jihad'". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- العريفي: فتوى "جهاد النكاح" في سوريا افتراء ولا تصدر عن عاقل | العالم العربي | أنباء موسكو (in Arabic). Anbamoscow.com. 2012-12-14. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Tunisians Raise Alarm on Possible Fatwa Encouraging 'Sexual Jihad'". Al-Monitor. 28 March 2013.
- BBC (26 October 2013). "Tunisia's 'sexual jihad' - extremist fatwa or propaganda?". BBC. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- El Alam: "Mufti: serving Syrian terrorists sexually is haram - Giving sexual services to terrorists under the name of religion (jihad) in Syria constitutes adultery, which is religiously haram (forbidden), according to the Mufti of Tunisia." April 20, 2013
- Sridharan, Vasudevan (13 July 2013). "Egypt: Is 'Sexual Jihad' Claim Part of Anti-Morsi Black Propaganda Campaign?". International Business Times. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Al Arabiya: "Pro-Mursi protesters are awaiting signal for ‘sexual Jihad’: report" 13 July 2013
- Nelson, Sara C (20 September 2013). "Sexual Jihad Sees Tunisian Women Return From Syria Pregnant By Rebels, Says Minister". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
- "Official: few Tunisian women waging Syria 'sex jihad'". Al Arabiya. 6 October 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
- Eretz Zen (March 16, 2014). "Tunisian Jihadist Confirms that Sexual Jihad in Syria is True from Firsthand Experience". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-07-23 – via Tunisian TV.
- "افتضاح قصة تونسي زعم "الجهاد" في سوريا" [Exposed the story of a Tunisian alleged "jihad" in Syria]. alarabiya.net. March 18, 2014.
- "ISIS Issues Orders in Mosul: Give Over Girls for 'Sex Jihad'". The Clarion Project. 2014-06-29. Retrieved 2014-07-23.
- White, Stephen (Jun 22, 2014). "ISIS fighters tells families "hand over your daughters for sex" after orders from cleric's fatwa". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- Lee Shi-Ian (2014-08-27). "Malaysian women join Middle East jihadists as 'comfort women', reveals intelligence report - The Malaysian Insider". The Malaysian Insider. Retrieved 2014-08-28.
- Al-Masryalyoum: "إعلامي كويتي: «داعش» يطالب أهالي الموصل بتقديم غير المتزوجات لـ«جهاد النكاح" 18-06-2014 (Arabic) | Arabic: نطالب أهالي هذه الولاية بتقديم النساء غير المتزوجات ليقمن بدورهم في جهاد النكاح لإخوانهن المجاهدين في المدينة، ومن يتخلف سنقيم عليه الشريعة وتطبيق قوانين الشريعة | Translation: We call upon the people of this county to bring their unmarried girls so they can fulfill their duty in sex jihad for their warrior brothers in the city and anyone who will not appear will feel the full force of the sharia [Islamic law] upon him.”
- "ISIS Just Executed More Than 150 Women In Fallujah". Business Insider. NOW News. Dec 17, 2014.
- "Iraq: 150 women executed after refusing to marry ISIL militants". Turkish Press. December 16, 2014. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
- "Photo of 'women murdered for refusing sex jihad' is fake". The France 24 Observers.
- Withnall, Adam (August 6, 2015). "Isis executes 19 women in Mosul 'for refusing to take part in sexual jihad'". Independent. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
- Christoph Reuter (2013-10-07). "'Sex Jihad' and Other Lies: Assad's Elaborate Disinformation Campaign". Der Spiegel.
- Accountability, Hilmi M. Zawati Chair of the International Center for Legal (16 February 2016). "Sectarian War in Syria Introduced New Gender-Based Crimes | Huffington Post". The Huffington Post.