They brought in people they wanted to sell us to. They would bring men, they would look at us, and then bargain, negotiate a price. One was a fat woman wearing a veil, and another time two men came. They bargained and negotiated the prices, they would talk and laugh but not let us know, the [buyers] would ask how much, and then [the captors] would wink their eyes and say "don't talk now, in front of them" … Then they would talk to us, saying "don't worry, we'll make you happy, we'll give you a happy life, don't worry, don't cry" … I think they wanted us to be dancers or something like that, they told us that. Ibtisam [the female captor], she dances, and she tried to teach me to dance. I didn't want to, and I didn't look at her when she danced.
Fifteen-year-old Muna B (not her real name) told Human Rights Watch researchers that she and her two sisters were kidnapped off a neighborhood street at gunpoint by four men in a taxicab around May 11.
The girls were blindfolded and held in a house outside Baghdad along with seven other children, three girls ages 15 to 10 and four boys ages 11 to around 5 years old.
All the children were beaten and Muna's sixteen-year-old sister was gang-raped.
The fear of being sold bolstered the teenager to risk escape when her captors went for food on June 8. Her two sisters, ages 11 and 16, are still missing.
Muna's testimony is one of four documented by Human Rights Watch workers researching sexual violence against women and girls in post-war Baghdad.
From May 27, 2003 to June 20, 2003, Human Rights Watch conducted over 70 interviews with victims, Iraqi and U.S. authorities, health workers and nongovernmental organizations. Researchers discovered 25 "credible reports" of sexually assaulted and abducted women.
Human Rights Watch notes that the failure of coalition forces to protect civilian victims of civil crimes is largely to blame for what is perceived to be a sharp increase in sexual crimes against women and girls.
Further, the report's summary states that a devastated health care system and an undermanned police force coupled with Iraq's Penal Code permitting reduced sentences for "honor killings" of raped relatives and for abductors or abusers who agree to marry their victims, makes an accurate account "almost impossible" and has "immediate and long-term negative implications for the safety of women and girls and for their participation in post-war life in Iraq."
Lisa Ashkenaz Croke