ASU Insight: The McCain Institute for International Leadership and the U.S. Institute of Peace

“ISIS and Sex Slavery”

McCain Insitute, US Institute of Peace, Zainab Hawa Bangura, Sarhang Hamasaeed, Mark Lagon, Elise Labott

Elise Labott, Sarhang Hamasaeed, Mark Lagon, and Zainab Hawa Bangura.


On Wednesday, October 5, The McCain Institute and United States Institute of Peace hosted "ISIS and Sex Slavery," the latest Human Trafficking Conversation Series installment.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is committing horrific crimes, such as sexual slavery, against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy a religious community of 400,000 people, according to United Nations investigators. Women who escaped have recounted their torture and rape to the public, Congress and UN officials. ISIS uses the popular Whatsapp instant messaging to advertise enslaved girls for sale. Secretary Kerry says these ISIS crimes, with others, amount to genocide. Yet UN investigators say the “path to accountability” through international justice systems is “blocked.” So what can the international community do to halt this impunity?

A prominent voice against ISIS’ sex slavery has been Sierra Leone’s Zainab Hawa Bangura, a former war refugee who is now the United Nations’ chief campaigner against sexual violence in conflict. As a special representative of the UN secretary general, Ms. Bangura has met survivors of this ISIS campaign and heard their stories.

Focused efforts at finding the policies and actions to provide accountability for ISIS sex slavery will be critical to informing the new leadership to be elected by the United States and the United Nations in the near future and to supporting survivors and preventing sexual crimes in future conflicts.


Zainab Hawa Bangura
UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Sarhang Hamasaeed
Senior Program Officer for Middle East Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace

Mark Lagon
Distinguished Senior Scholar and Centennial Fellow at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown

Elise Labott, Moderator
Global Affairs Correspondent, CNN