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The Sabayah of the Islamic State

The Sabayah of the Islamic State features 25-year-old Abu Hamza, a Syrian from Deir ez-Zor interviewed in 2016 in Turkey by Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla. The video was produced and edited by Zack Baddorf and ICSVE staff.

Abu Hamza originally joined the uprising against Syrian Bashar al Assad and fought for the Free Syrian Army, but later joined ISIS when they emerged in 2013, believing they would set up a true Islamic State. Abu Hamza, like many of the Syrians we interviewed who joined ISIS, was very pleased with the shariah training they provided and the opportunity to learn his religion better.  He thought however that the Takfir version of Islam they were teaching was correct—until he started to see it played out in real life.

After the battle of Sinjar, ISIS brought back captured Yazidi women who were given to the single men and foreign fighters as war booty. The women were raped mercilessly and traded among the men. Abu Hamza says he was offered a sex slave but refused.

Abu Hamza also watched how ISIS cadres preyed upon local families enticing them to allow marriages with their daughters only to use the young girl and then discard her after a few months of marriage. He also witnessed how ISIS raped and enslaved Sunni women from the rival al Sheitaat tribe.

Overall, Abu Hamza relays his deep disappointment in ISIS, saying he thought it was an Islamic State, but it was not.

Timed transcript of the The Sabayah of the Islamic State:

0:03     In the training, they taught us about religion, prayers, jihad.

0:08     They teach us lessons. Paradise… They make things clearer for us.

0:16     They fill our heads with the “correct” religious teachings.

0:21     A good religion.

0:27     I wanted to fight in battles for ISIS and I did. I participated in battles.

0:33     Then I started seeing the negative side of it.

0:39     When the battle started In Iraq, they brought the Yazidi women, the slaves.

0:48    They brought Yazidi women,

0:51     ABU HAMZA

Former ISIS Soldier

and all the single men took slaves.

0:58     The priority was for the foreign fighters.

1:02     The commanders would tell us that this immigrant guy is coming from another country

1:12     to fight in the land of Sham. He has the priority.

1:18     They raped women. A Tunisian guy, he is married. We heard about this story.

1:27     He took a Yazidi woman, but he is married. He took a sabayah [a female sex slave].

1:33     He married her without really getting married.

1:36     His wife complained. She saw him with the second wife and it is not legitimate.

1:44     What brings them together is not legitimate.

1:49     She complained to the shariah board.

1:53     After a while we heard that they didn’t judge him. They just placed him elsewhere.

1:58     Later, when they got female slaves, he took one for himself.

2:03     They would sell them to each other.

2:06     Let’s say, for example, today I will take a slave, I would spend with her a month or two

2:10     for enjoyment. Then I would sell her.

2:15     I didn’t like the sabayah[sexual slavery] part. They take her as a slave but they do not marry her.

2:23     The majority of men do that.

2:28     I was proposed one, a sabayah,but I was married.

2:34     If someone wants to get married,

2:26     he is usually an immigrant—a Saudi, Moroccan or Tunisian;

2:41     an Arab, a Muslim.

2:43     They head to poor families. They ask to marry the girl. They tempt the parents with money.

2:51     A million, a million-and-a-half Syrian lira. If he [the father] agrees, he will marry her.

2:56     She will stay with him for a month or two, just for his enjoyment. Then he divorces her.

3:02     If she doesn’t agree, they will accuse the brother or the son of being a murtad [apostate].

3:09     They will come up with a fake accusation.

3:15     Abu Hamza says the Islamic State soldiers also raped Sunni women.

3:19     So we raided al-Sheitaat [a rival Sunni tribe]. [ISIS] raped their women.

3:23     They took female slaves.

3:25     Once they took us to raid a guy’s home saying that he was an infiltrator for the Free Syrian Army.

3:30     We dragged him away from his wife. I didn’t like that. I thought it was an Islamic State.

3:43     The Truth Behind the Islamic State

3:46     Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

3:51     See more at

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past two years, she and ICSVE staff have been collecting interviews (n=78) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and consulting on how to rehabilitate them. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism experts and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: and on the ICSVE website  Follow @AnneSpeckhard

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