Islamic State group, ISIL have begun a media campaign, advertising sex slaves for sale on smart phone apps like the Telegram app.
The Islamic State group which is losing territory in its self-styled caliphate, is tightening its grip on an estimated 3,000 women and girls held as sex slaves.
ISIL sells the women like chattel on smart phone apps and shares databases that contain their photographs and the names of their “owners” to prevent their escape through ISIL checkpoints.
In the images, many of the women and girls are dressed in finery, some in heavy makeup. All look directly at the camera, standing in front of overstuffed chairs or brocade curtains in what resembles a shabby hotel ballroom. Some are barely out of elementary school. Not one looks older than 30.
According to an activist who is documenting the transactions, ISIL relies on encrypted apps to sell the women and girls.
Negotiations for the captives are in encrypted conversations and the postings appear primarily on Telegram and on Facebook and WhatsApp to a lesser degree.
The advertisement on the Telegram app bears inscriptions like; A girl for sale is “Virgin. Beautiful. 12 years old…. Her price has reached $12,500 and she will be sold soon.”
Both Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Telegram use end-to-end encryption to protect users’ privacy. Both have said they consider protecting private conversations and data paramount, and that they themselves cannot access users’ content.
Telegram is extremely popular in the Middle East, among other regions and Telegram spokesman, Markus Ra, says the company is committed to prevent abuse of the service and that it routinely removes public channels used by ISIL.
Thousands of Yazidi women and children were taken prisoner in August 2014, when ISIL fighters overran their villages in northern Iraq with the aim to eliminate the Kurdish-speaking minority because of its ancient faith.
Since then, Arab and Kurdish smugglers managed to free an average of 134 people a month. But by May, an ISIL crackdown reduced those numbers to just 39 in the last six weeks, according to figures provided by the Kurdistan regional government.