A UN envoy will travel to Iraq and Syria this week to address the disturbing use of rape, sex slavery and other sexual violence by extremists like the Islamic State.
Zainab Hawa Bangura, the special envoy on sexual violence in conflict, will also travel to Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon in her first Middle East tour.
Bangura told the Security Council on Wednesday that the visit will take place “against the backdrop of a catastrophic new trend of the use of sexual violence as a ‘tactic of terror’ by extremist groups.”
A UN report released this week showed Islamic State fighters and other jihadists used sexual violence as part of their strategy to terrorize civilians, drive out populations and generate revenue.
The plight of women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi minority has raised alarm after hundreds captured by Islamic State fighters were sold in open markets as sex slaves last year.
The report noted a “significant increase” in the number of cases of sexual violence in Syria with abductees from Iraq being sold in markets in IS-controlled areas of Syria.
Over recent months, some 1,500 civilians including many Yazidi women and children may have been forced into sexual slavery, the report said.
Bangura was appointed as special envoy three years ago to focus international attention on the crime which has long been considered a by-product of war.
The Sierra Leonean diplomat urged the 15-member council to consider adding sexual violence as a criteria for sanctions.