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- As Delivered – 

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following statement at the Committee hearing on ISIS’s treatment of women, from recruitment to brutality:


“Thank you Mr. Chairman, thank you for convening this hearing, and as always thank you for your leadership on this issue, and all the other issues that this Committee confronts.


“To our witnesses: welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee.  Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your testimony.


“None of the issues that this Committee deals with is simple. And the fight against ISIS is certainly no exception.  Just this week, we see two of our partners—Turkish and Kurdish fighters—battling each other.  This situation is a mess, and there’s no other way to put it. 


“That doesn’t mean we should look the other way.  On the contrary, we need to dig deep, look at all the aspects of this crisis, and keep working toward a viable strategy.


“Today, we are addressing a particular concern of mine: the way women have been victimized in ISIS’s brutal rampage.  In ISIS-controlled areas, women have suffered horrendous violence, they have been separated from their families, and they have been bought, sold and gifted as if they were property.

“Nearly a year ago, ISIS began its deadly offensive on the Yazidi population in the Sinjar area of northern Iraq.  As many as 50,000 Yazidis were forced to flee.  5,000 Yazidi men were massacred.  And between 5,000 and 7,000 women and girls became ISIS slaves. 


“We have heard of the horrifying stories from survivors: accounts of systematic rape, torture, forced marriage, and other abuses.  Girls as young as 12 have been raped—often multiple times and by different fighters. 


“Sexual violence has a long, dark history as a tool of war.  Yet, it seems that this type of violence is central to ISIS ideology.  ISIS terrorists are using rape in an effort to wipe away cultural diversity, religious minorities, and killing LGBT persons in order to realize their twisted vision of a homogenous Caliphate.  Sounds a lot like the Nazis to me.


“It’s also troubling that more than 500 women from Western countries have chosen to join ISIS.  Lured by online glorification of life in Da’esh, women from the UK, France, Sweden, and other countries have been encouraged to abandon their communities and join ISIS. It really perplexes me.


“These women recruited to ISIS are then funneled into domestic roles, recruitment jobs, or all-women patrol brigades to enforce the group’s perverted worldview.


“So today, I’m hoping our witnesses can shed more light on this problem, and share their ideas on how to meet the challenge. 


“What motivates the women who join the ranks of ISIS?  What motivates anyone who joins the ranks of ISIS?  An organization with such a brutal record of violence against women and girls, why would women want to join them?  How do we disrupt these recruitment and radicalization efforts?  And how can we assist women to be part of the solution?  We know that with the right tools and opportunities, women can be tremendous agents of change in preventing violent extremism.  How can we adapt our policies, integrating women to address some of the tactics ISIS uses to recruit and radicalize?


“So, I look forward to the testimony, to learning more about the specific challenges women face in confronting ISIS, and how we can best address the recruitment of women to join this heinous organization in Iraq and Syria.


“And I want to add to what the Chairman said. Three years ago I put in a bill, which would have authorized the aiding and equipping of the Free Syrian Army. And I said this three years ago, and I say it now. I can’t help but thinking if we had been there and had done it when it should have been done, might things have been different now in Syria. It’s the Syrian people who are bearing the brunt of all the atrocities that are happening. And, I think the United States needs to be more than just a passive bystander.


“So, I thank all the witnesses, and I look forward to your testimony. Thank you.”