Sex slaves of Kerala: How woman are forcibly converted and sold to ISIS

New Delhi: During a recent meeting of the Intelligence Bureau which was addressed by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, one of the key topics of discussion was religious conversions.

It became a hot topic for debate considering the numerous cases that were being reported in which it was found that forced religious conversions were linked to terrorism.

When earlier this week, the National Investigation Agency questioned two suspected ISIS operatives, it was found that they were linked with Shafin Jahan, the man who was married to Hadiya. The probe is an ongoing one and the NIA is now trying to ascertain why Shafin was part of the social media and chat groups that were started by the two operatives who are currently lodged in a Kerala jail.

Hadiya’s father had alleged in this case that his daughter was tricked into marriage by a group of persons with terror links before being forcibly converted.

The Hadiya case is not an isolated one. On Thursday, the Kerala police bust another major case in which it was found that a girl was forcibly converted to Islam as part of a larger plan. The Kerala police learnt that she was tricked into marriage and her husband was trying to sell her off as a sex slave to the ISIS in Syria.

Now these are not isolated cases. Take the case of Pallath Merrin Jacob and Sonia Sebastin, both girls from Kerala who were forcibly converted to Islam before being taken away to Afghanistan to be part of the ISIS. The cases of Bexen Vincent and Bestin Vincent too need to be taken into account here as they were lured into conversion before they made their journey to Afghanistan again to be part of an ISIS module.

The latest case of sex slavery:

In the most recent case that was busted, the police arrested Fayaz and Siyad on the charge that they had helped Muhammad Riyaz convert a girl and then tried to sell her off as a sex slave in Syria.

The woman, a native of Pathanamthitta who grew up in Gujarat, had filed a petition seeking the annulment of the marriage in the Kerala High Court in November 2017.

Ernakulam Rural Superintendent of Police A V George informed that the hunt is on to arrest 8 more persons including the main accused Riyaz. We are also probing their links with the Islamic State, he said.

Riyaz met the lady at a college in Bengaluru in 2014. He pretended to be in love with her and lured her into sexual favours. He then blackmailed her with the videos he shot and then forcibly got married to her. The marriage took place at a sub-registrar’s office in Bengaluru and the allegation is that the witnesses were members of the PFI or Popular Front of India on which a ban is now being sought.

In August 2017, he took her to Jeddah. She alleged in the complaint that he was trying to take her to Syria and sell her as a sex slave to the ISIS. She however managed to escape. She had also alleged that Riyaz had received money to undertake this operation. The police now say that this seems to be an operation which is part of a much wider network.

Big demand for religious converts:

The main stream Muslim community in Kerala may not accept these religious converts on the pretext that they are outsiders. However in terror circles there is a big demand for those who have converted to Islam.

An Intelligence Bureau official working at the Kerala desk says that the demand for those who have converted is higher for two reasons. In some cases it has been found that a convert is more radical. In the case of women, it is more of less to sell them off as sex slaves. The ISIS in particular has a high demand for converted women and they use them as sex slaves and baby making machines in a bid to increase their numbers.

The other reason for such a high demand is because converts know less about the religion. The Islam that is preached by the ISIS is twisted and amended to their suiting. A convert is not completely aware of what the Quran has to say and tend to question their ways much lesser.

During the probes that were conducted in Kerala, some women have even confessed that since they have taken to a new religion, the eagerness to please is more. Hence they end up doing anything told to them blindly. In other cases, it is a well oiled trap which they fall into following which they have no option but to behave as told.

The ISIS is also aware that a convert has less acceptance in society. The women in particular are usually ostracised by their families and this makes a perfect case for the ISIS to rope them in. This is exactly the pattern that we have found in Kerala, an officer part of the probe said.

With so many cases cropping up and the name of the PFI appearing in almost every probe, the investigation against the outfit is widening. It is not restricted to Kerala alone. They have associates across the country and have even set up base in the North East too. This appears to be a well oiled network which has to be dug into deeper and probed harder, officials in Delhi say.

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