Trafficking terror

How modern slavery and sexual violence fund terrorism

By Nikita Malik

Terrorists are using sexual violence, including rape, sexual slavery, and forced marriage, to bolster recruits, galvanize fighters, and, in the case of Islamist groups, punish kuffar (disbelievers). These are just part of our shocking new report. The findings and calls for action within the report have been welcomed by many MPs and the government’s former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. The report’s author, Nikita Malik, said, ‘The international community must recognise and address the nexus between this criminality and security. Historical revenue streams, including taxation and oil sales, to groups such as Islamic State and Boko Haram are decreasing. These are being replaced with hostage-taking and ransom efforts, meaning modern day slavery may increase as Daesh struggles to sustain its financial reserves. ‎ “Illicit economies complicate efforts to protect the victims of human trafficking and prosecute perpetrators of violence under international law.

In the UK, ‎laws including the Modern Slavery and Terrorism Acts must now be interpreted more broadly in order to reflect the spectrum of crimes committed by individuals using sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism.” The report cites a number of case studies including a ten-year-old Libyan child who was raped by traffickers more than once while she was being held in a camp. The report, entitled Trafficking Terror, finds that there are clear links between terrorists, criminals, and traffickers. Terrorists are using organised crime tactics such as money laundering, migrant smuggling, drug and firearms trafficking, and human trafficking. Sexual slavery markets in territory controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have been common, as has the use of human trafficking marketplaces in Libya. A clear driver behind sexual trafficking is financial gain. While terrorists seem to commit sexual violence for ideological reasons, ransom payments point to a new source of revenue for terrorism that is directly linked to the use of sexual violence. Modern slavery provides monetary flows to terrorist organisations such as Islamic State and Boko Haram through the sale and re-sale of human bodies, with reports indicating that kidnapping represents $10-30 million of revenue to Daesh in 2016.

Read the full report