The Tunisian girls and women go to Syria to wage ‘sex jihad’ in order to comfort militants battling Bashar Assad, but end up pregnant. They are ‘swapped’ between as many as 100 rebels, a Tunisian politician says.
Tunisia, the largely moderate North African country, has struggled to stymie the flow of hundreds of young men leaving to fight alongside rebels in Syria’s more than two-year-long, bloody civil war.
Now, the interior minister says, the country must also slow a stream of young Tunisian women leaving for Syria on “sexual jihad.”
The Arabic term (jihad al-nikah) describes a phenomenon, evident in other Arab countries as well, of women traveling to the battlefield to provide comfort—and sexual favors—for the rebel fighters. Some hardline jihadists consider the practice a legitimate complement to Holy War.
“They have sexual relations with 20, 30, 100″ militants, the minister, Lofti Ben Jeddou said during a national security address to members of the National Constituent Assembly, according to the AFP. “After the sexual liaisons they have there in the name of ‘jihad al-nikah,’ they come home pregnant.”
The minister did not say how many women have traveled to Syria, though local media reports have suggested hundreds of women have done so. He added that the government has prevented some 6,000 Tunisians from traveling to Syria.
Local media reports also say that a startling number of these sexual jihadists are young girls. Earlier this month, the controversial Salafist Saudi Sheikh Mohamed al-Arifi’s issued “a fatwa that permits fighters to marry few hours with girls as young as 14,” the Al Bawaba news site reported. Mohamed al Arifi’s fatwa explains the call for young girls. But it also explains how how religion can be used to justify all this sex.
Former Mufti of Tunisia Sheikh Othman Battikh said in April that girls were being “fooled” into going to Syria, where they were forced in providing sexual services he called “prostitution.”
Prostitution is illegal in Tunisia but also somewhat tolerated by authorities. In 2011, a group of Islamic fundamentalists attempted to burn down some brothels.
What this sounds like is a modern-day flashback to “comfort women”, the term given to women and girls forced into prostitution and sexually servicing the men of the Japanese Imperial army during World War II. Historians estimate that nearly three-fourths of these women died, and many were left infertile due to trauma and disease.
The question that remains is if this is prostitution and exploitation of teenage girls, or are they autonomous women really supporting Syria.