In March 2011, demonstrations against President Bashr al-Assad and his regime broke out in southern Syria. As reports streamed in that Assad’s troops were shooting civilians, armed groups opposed to the regime began their campaign. Free Syrian Army forces were joined by jihadi Islamic groups such as al-Nusra and what became known as Daesh or Islamic State forces to combat Assad’s forces. Within two years, the various anti-Assad forces controlled parts of Syria. In March 2013, Free Syrian Army forces and al-Nusra captured Raqqa, a city along the Euphrates River, which they proclaimed as the first liberated city of Syria.
 
Within two years of the seizing of the city, the reality of Islamist control of Raqqa – as well as the northern tier of Syria – began to set in. Reports were rife with accounts of wholesale persecution and dispossession of Syrian Christians and Muslims who do not share the Islamic State’s Sunni sect of Islam. The Yazidi people – who follow a monotheistic pre-Muslim religion – were singled out for genocide, while their women and girls were subjected to wholesale rape and enslavement. Stories of other women and girls being sold at auction by Islamic State combatants emerged from the conflict, just as did reports of crucifixions. In a case reported in 2014, four Iranians were burned to death while Islamic State terrorists recorded the crime on video.
 
Al-Qaeda Muslim cleric orders beheading of Syrian woman accused of adultery
 
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 42 women were sold  in 2014 for between $500 (447 euros) and $2,000 (1,785 euros) in Deir Ezzor - a province in eastern Syria. In addition, hundreds of women and girls were abducted the year before by the Islamic State following the fall of the Iraqi city of Sinjar, which was populated mainly by Yazidi Kurds.
 
In a recent BBC report, a woman identified as “Noura” described life in Raqqa following its seizure by Islamic State forces. Noura – not her real name – said that women have been forced into marriage by Islamic State captors or simply kept in sexual slavery. Women are compelled to cover themselves head-to-foot in hijab, while they are also required to have a male companion with them at all times while out in public. The Islamic State uses foreign women, alleged Noura, to enforce Muslim sharia law. The local women are subjected to forced body cavity searches.
 
Noura said that her eldest sister was reported to Islamic State authorities after having a disagreement with her in-laws. Subjected to numerous lashes by the Islamic State religious police, the elder sister has yet to recover.
 
Striped hyena
 
One of Noura’s most terrifying accusations is that Islamic State terrorists subject some women to savage death for having defied the occupiers. Noura said “They do much worse to women who challenge their politics. They leave them in a place nearby where hyenas hunt. They are eaten alive.”
 
Striped hyena in profile
 
As incredible as the accusation may seem, recent history records that hyenas can and do attack and eat human beings. According to Raymond W. Copson in “Africa's wars and prospects for peace” hyena attacks on people in southern Sudan increased during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005), when human corpses were easily available. The striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is a species found throughout North and East Africa, the Middle East (including Syria), the Caucasus region, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. 
 
Range of the spotted hyena
 
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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