ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) is still holding and selling captive Iraqi Yazidi women as slaves, and now some of these slave sales are being carried out on the dark web. These are internet sites that are deliberately kept from being found and listed by Internet search engines, like Google. All manner of secretive business takes place on the dark web, much of it of a criminal nature. Access to dark web sites is difficult to obtain, but once the web ID is known the owners and users can sometimes be tracked down. At the very least the server (hard drive holding the web site data and connected to the web) can be seized or forced to disconnect because it is now known. Dark web sites are used by smugglers, especially people smugglers who are moving or literally selling captive women. In one early 2021 incident Turkish police were notified that a seven-year-old Yazidi girl was being offered for sale. Families often continue searching for enslaved children and have found that dark web auction sites will often offer women or girls. The slavers don’t care if kin of their captive made the highest bid just to get a child or young girl back. In this case the relatives contacted Turkish police to assist, fearing that they might robbed by the kidnappers when they went to deliver the money and get the girl. Police staked out the pickup location and arrested the Iraqi men who had captured the girl and brought her to Turkey to sell her for a higher price via a dark web auction.
Slave auctions have been going on in the Middle East and Africa for thousands of years. Despite energetic anti-slavery campaigns by European nations in the 19th and 20th centuries, slavery persists in parts of the Middle East and Africa. Most of the slavers are Moslems who invoke their scripture (the Koran) as justification for continued enslavement of non-Moslems, particularly women and girls. Islamic conservatives are responsible for most of the surviving slavery and they are now assisted by criminal gangs that specialize in moving illegal migrants to Western countries. Some of these migrants are enslaved women being sold into prostitution.
It took the British colonial government over a century to suppress slavery in Nigeria, their largest colony in Adrica, and when the British left in the 1960s, there were still areas in the Moslem north where slavery was quietly accepted. After 2014 Islamic terror group Boko Haram revived enslaving Christians in a big way by capturing and enslaving thousands of Nigerian Christians.
Saudi Arabia did not officially outlaw slavery until the 1960s and some forms of slavery persist in the Arabian Peninsula. It also persists across the Red Sea in Sudan, where Arabized African tribes continued, into the 21st Century, to raid Christian Africans in southern Sudan and take slaves.
Some Moslem groups resist slaving violently. In northern Iraq ISIL attacks Kurds, and enslaves captives considered heretics, especially Yazidi, a Kurdish sect that practice a religion many Moslems consider offensive to Islam. The Kurds and Yazidi tend to live apart but when there is a threat to Kurds, the Yazidi fight alongside Moslem and Christian Kurds.
For Kurds, extreme emergencies mean a lot of armed women join the armed men. In response to ISIL over 10,000 Kurdish women joined militias and trained for combat. Most of these women are not Yazidi but in late 2015 Yazidi women who had been captured and raped by ISIL succeeded in getting support for a battalion of just Yazidi women who had been sex slaves of ISIL and, obviously, escaped. By then over 2,000 Yazidi slaves, most of them women, had escaped from ISIL But the Yazidi women could not escape the experience because of ancient social customs.
The ISIL use of slavery is particularly painful because the Middle East is one of those regions where female virginity is a big deal, sometimes a matter of life and death for women who lose it before marriage and then sometimes get murdered to salvage family honor. Getting captured and raped during war is usually not fatal but it does still stigmatize the victims. One way honor can be restored is via revenge. Taking up weapons and killing the culprit makes the woman less of a victim and more admirable, and likely to marry. The Yazidis, who usually live among Kurds, are largely regarded as Kurds but ones who have developed very different religious and social customs. Most Moslems consider the Yazidis heretics or pagans. The Kurds came to the aid of the Yazidi in 2014 when ISIL sought to kill or enslave all Yazidi in northern Iraq. The Kurds also helped arm and train Yazidi men to form more militias. By late 2015 this led to the appearance of the “Sun Ladies”, who were former Yazidi sex slaves now armed, trained and seeking revenge. Soon there were enough of them to form a separate battalion. After 2016 the number of Yazidis held captive declined from to a few hundred, at most, in 2020. One objective of all these Yazidi militias (and Kurds in general) was to free the slaves. Most were eventually freed but after 2016 there continued to be reports of Yazidi women and girls still held as slaves and sometimes sold at auction. Kurds, and some non-Kurds continued to search for those still held in bondage.