The “sexual jihad” lie is falling apart. Some celebrated this story when it went viral a few months ago and resorted to a cheap imagination to market tales in which sex mingles with fighting in the name of religion. They also depicted the Syrian regime as a “secular” fortress standing against this harm. All those who were involved in this cheap marketing are now silent towards this issue. An issue which all media outlets were attracted to an issue that later out turned out to be baseless.
Media outlets, rights organizations and activists did not find a single girl who could attest that she had granted her body as a gift to fighters in the name of religion. Perhaps what really cemented that this story was fake were the Syrian regime’s desperate attempts to circulate the story even after it was dropped by rights organizations and media due to the inability to prove it.
The Syrian regime published testimony by female teenager who was a purported victim. Rawan Qadah narrated a story of such proportions that only the Syrian regime could have fabricated it. Rawan narrated an incoherent story of how her father conspired against her and used her as a sexual commodity.
The sheikh whom the fatwa was attributed to has confirmed several times that he did not issue this fatwaDiana Moukalled
Perhaps the story which Rawan narrated is itself a crime committed by the Syrian regime; it doesn’t stop at anything for the sake of staying in power. The tragedy of Rawan, who was kidnapped months ago and whose father is an opponent of the regime, urged several media outlets to dig into this made-up phenomenon dubbed “sexual jihad.”
French daily Le Monde and American magazine Foreign Policy wrote articles and conducted investigation reports on this lie. After that, a torrent of Western and Arab articles were published in media outlets around the world in an attempt to compensate for falling in the trap of such a lie.
Perhaps the best means which Le Monde and Foreign Policy adopted in solving the case was beginning their investigation at the root of the issue. The sheikh whom the fatwa was attributed to has confirmed several times that he did not issue this fatwa. The media outlet which marketed this story for the first time was one that supports the Syrian regime. Not a single case of sexual jihad could be proven. Tunisian officials who spoke on the subject did not present solid evidence either. It later turned out that they had personal interests to achieve by making these statements.
Amena Qalali, a researcher at the Human Rights Watch in Tunisia, said that Tunisian officials failed to prove Tunisian females’ involvement in so-called sexual jihad. She added that Tunisian officials marketed this story of sexual jihad in order to help the regime evade its responsibilities towards women’s rights organizations and their demands for freedom. According to Qalali, the Tunisian government evaded the demands of such women’s groups by making up the sexual jihad stories.
Although some officials in Tunisia are criminally and morally guilty of accusing girls of committing such practices without proof, the Syrian regime’s responsibility over what it has done to Rawan is much more. But, with a regime like the Syrian one, words have no value or meaning.
This article was first published in al-Sharq al-Awsat on Oct. 9, 2013.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.