By Layla Ibrahim
There’s a large misconception amongst westernized countries that the whole of the Middle East consists of prudish women and their male oppressors. The term of ‘jihad’ normally inspires immediate and intense negative reactions from both non-Muslim and Muslim citizens of the world. However, there is a new, religiously sanctioned and less conservative form of ‘jihad’ or ‘holy war’ appearing amongst the Syrian army.
Due to the war which claims many eligible young men as soldiers for the army, many Tunisian women are reportedly waging their own ‘jihad al-nika’ or ‘sex jihad’ and attending to the soldiers by providing ‘sexual comfort’. The Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou has told members of the National Consituent Assembly on Thursday September 19th that these women “are [sexually] swapped between 20, 30, and 100 rebels and they come back bearing the fruit of sexual contacts in the name of sexual jihad and we are silent doing nothing and standing idle.” There was no clarification as to the amount of women who have come back from Syria impregnated or their mental state.
According to media reports however, they number up to hundreds. This form of holy war permits women to engage in extramarital affairs with any number of men without judgment by society and is in fact encouraged in many Sunni Muslim communities as it is considered supporting the jihadists and in turn, supporting Allah (or God). The jihad al-nika first made itself apparent in Tunisia during early April in the form of a statement by former mufti of Tunisia, Sheikh Othman Battikh in which he claims that “13 Tunisian girls were fooled into traveling to Syria to offer their sexual services to rebel fighters.” Sheikh Battikh was dismissed from his job subsequent to his description of the sexual jihad as a form of prostitution.
Al Aribaya cites Mufti as saying, “For jihad in Syria, they are now pushing girls to go there. Thirteen young girls have been sent for the sexual jihad. What is this? This is called prostitution. It is moral educational corruption.” The following August, Mustafa Bin Omar, the general director of public security service said that a “sexual jihad cell” has been disbanded in an area directly west of the country which is known for its concentration of Al-Qaeda soldiers. Al Arabiya cited Bin Omar as saying that Ansar Shariah, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, was offering underage girls with their faces covered as sexual offerings for jihadist fighters as comfort and incentive.
Bin Omar responded to human rights groups who criticized the government’s banning of suspected militants from leaving the country under the reasoning that many of them are under 35 years of age and the allegation that the Tunisian youths are “positioned in the frontlines and are taught how steal and raid [Syrian] villages,” in lieu of their Syrian soldier counterparts. The Tunisian government continues to struggle against the large flow of emigration and is still attempting to restrict border control to prevent the male rebel fighters and the female jihadists.