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Sex in the Islamic State

Sex in the Islamic State features 18-year-old Abu Yousef, a Syrian ISIS defector interviewed in 2016 by Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla and was produced by Zack Baddorf and our ICSVE team. It highlights the experiences of youth in the ISIS Cubs of the Caliphate and the sexual predation on boys and women carried out by ISIS cadres.

Abu Yousef was only a teen, and already orphaned, when the Syrian conflicts had begun..  Following the car accident that killed both of his parents,  he went on to live with his uncle, and was not sure of his survival. Abu Yousef and his uncles joined the Free Syrian Army at the beginning of the Syrian uprisings, but after being displaced by the conflicts, Abu Yousef decided to join ISIS against the advice of his uncle.

Abu Yousef talks about being taken under the wing of a Chechen ISIS cadre, as well as  taken away as a teen, without the knowledge of his family, to join the Cubs of the Caliphate. Abu Yousef was at first thrilled to be trained in religion and receive weapons training, but overtime  became disillusioned with ISIS.

One of the experiences that disappointed Abu Yousef was to learn that a 15-year-old boy was being raped by an adult ISIS cadre, and that when this sexual predation was discovered, a cover up occurred. Only the boy was punished, by being sent to ISIS jail, while his rapist was sent away to Raqqa to keep the incident secret. ICSVE researchers have been told of other incidents of rape of young boys by ISIS cadres, including an Iraqi interviewee, who admitted to being raped by his ISIS “emir” (superior).

Abu Yousef was also disgusted by the ISIS practice of raping and forcing marriage upon their sex slaves and widows of other ISIS fighters.

Ultimately, Abu Yousef became so afraid and disgusted by ISIS that he decided to risk his life by escaping to Turkey, where we interviewed him. He finishes this video by telling viewers that

“ISIS is not righteous. They are murtadeen [apostates]. They know nothing about religion.” He goes on to warn, “They take innocent people, who have done nothing wrong, and force them to join.”

While ISIS has lost significant territory, with its leadership either  largely decapitated or on the run, the group is still managing to lure recruits from all over the globe to travel to the conflict zones, and perhaps even more worrisome, to stay at home and engage in  homegrown attacks. Abu Yousef’s words are especially important for youth all around the world who  might be listening to or watching ISIS material and propaganda : “Don’t come. Don’t join ISIS. Don’t be impressed by them, because they are not righteous.”

Timed transcript of Sex in the Islamic State video:

0:02     It’s called the Cubs of the Caliphate [training camp].

0:08     The ages [of the camp trainees] ranged from 10 to 21 years old.

0:18     I wanted to be with ISIS, because I had no one. I needed money to survive.

0:28     ABU YOUSEF

My father and my mother died in a car accident.

0:33     When I joined them, they first taught me about religion.

0:39     They gave me weapons training. I was thrilled.

0:45     In the end, I uncovered the truth about them. They weren’t righteous.

0:53     A Tunisian guy had sexual relations with an Ansari[a local Syrian].

0:58     TheAnsariwas around fifteen years old.

1:00     One of our friends, an Ansari,saw them.

1:04     He saw them as he was going to the restroom to perform ablution.

1:09     They caught him, but they didn’t punish the foreign fighter.

1:13     They covered up what he did and took him to Raqqa.

1:14     But they punished the boy.

1:16     They jailed him.  They jailed only him.

1:19     [ISIS] wanted to get rid of them, so they announced that a judge would take care of it.

1:25     They didn’t want anyone to take revenge and they wanted to keep it a secret.

1:30     They made both of them disappear.

1:31     They jailed [the boy] and [the rapist] was taken to Raqqa.

1:37     I also heard that they have sexual activities with women.  They rape them.

1:41     They rape them because they are sabayah[sex slaves].

1:44     For example, one man [forcibly] married or raped the widow of a mujahid [holy fighter].

1:50     This is what they believe in. They rape the women.

1:53     They don’t think they are doing anything wrong.

1:56     He asks her, ‘Are you a widow?’

1:58     ‘I will marry you in accordance with the Holy Book of Allah and the of his Prophet.’

2:02     I was [afraid of ISIS]. This is why I escaped [to Turkey], because of this.

2:09     [ISIS] are not righteous. They are murtadeen [apostates].

2:14,    They know nothing about religion.

2:16     They take innocent people, who have done nothing wrong, and force them to join.

2:30    Don’t come. Don’t join ISIS.

2:36     Don’t be impressed by them, because they are not righteous.

2:43     The Truth Behind the Islamic State

2:45     Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

2:50     See more at

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past two years, she and ICSVE staff have been collecting interviews (n=78) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and consulting on how to rehabilitate them. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism experts and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: and on the ICSVE website  Follow @AnneSpeckhard

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