Reports yesterday that ISIS had mandated female circumcision in the Iraqi city of Mosul quickly went viral and were almost as quickly debunked. The claim that the group now calling itself the Islamic State had issued a fatwa requiring female genital mutilation for all women between the ages of 11 and 46 came from a senior U.N. official in Iraq and appears to have been based on an edict ISIS calls a hoax.
But if ISIS’s relationship with women is not as eye-catchingly gruesome as many thought yesterday, it is exceedingly complicated, and shifting. In Raqqa, Syria, which serves as the Islamic State’s de facto capital, women who go out without a male chaperone or aren’t fully covered in public are subject to arrests and beatings.
And often it’s other women who do the arresting and beating.
The al-Khansaa Brigade is ISIS’s all-female moral police, established in Raqqa soon after ISIS took over the city a few months ago. "We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law," Abu Ahmad, an ISIS official in Raqqa, told Syria Deeply’s Ahmad al-Bahri. Ahmad emphasized that the brigade has its own facilities to avoid mingling among men and women. “Jihad,” he told al-Bahri, “is not a man-only duty. Women must do their part as well.”