At least 13 Tunisian girls reportedly traveled to rebel-held Northern Syria to offer themselves as sex workers to opposition fighters in a sexual jihad.
The report comes as concerns in Tunisia grow about religious orders or ‘fatwas’ that have circulated the internet calling on women to perform jihad through sex.
Last week, a Tunisian minister of religious affairs appealed to girls not to be influenced by Islamic preachers outside of Tunisia who, it has been reported, made a number of ‘sexual fatwas.’
Noureddine al-Khadimi rejected ‘sexual jihad’ fatwas, urging Tunisian people and state institutions to not respond to them.
Tunisian newspapers reported that a young Tunisian man divorced his wife, and that they both headed to Syria almost a month ago to ‘allow her to engage in sexual jihad with the mujahideen’ there.
This report followed earlier ones of a video widely circulated on the internet and social websites in Tunisia shows the parents of a veiled girl called Rahmah, 17.
They said Rahmahat disappeared from home one morning and they ‘later learned that she had headed to Syria to carry out sexual jihad.’
The young girl has since returned to her family, who have kept her out of sight, and said that their daughter is not a religious fanatic ‘but was influenced by her fellow students who are known for their affiliation with the jihadist Salafist.’
Her parents said these fellow students may have brainwashed her and convinced her to travel to Syria ‘to support the mujahideen there.’
Such stories are becoming more common in Tunisia and parents are concerned about the influence charismatic Islamic leaders in other Arab countries can wield over their children.
The minister’s statements came after the spread of an anonymous ‘sexual jihad’ fatwa on the Internet calling on young women to support [opposition] fighters in Syria by providing sexual services on the battlefield.
According to media reports in Tunisia who quoted mujahideen returning to Tunisia after participating in jihad in Syria, 13 Tunisian girls headed to the battlefield in response to the ‘sexual jihad’ fatwa.
News websites and social networks in Tunisia circulated a fatwa attributed to Sheikh Mohamed al-Arifi in which he calls upon ‘Muslim women’ to perform jihad through sex.
However, sources close to the sheikh denied that he had issued the fatwa, stressing that anyone who circulates or believes it is insane.
Saudi Arabia is widely known to be financially backing the Syrian rebels fighting in Northern Syria and whose hardcore ‘Salafist’ strand of Islam influences a great number of the young fighters – many of whom are ‘jihadists’ and come from all around the world.
Reports in Tunisia stress though that the fatwa had gained much attention on pro-Syrian regime websites, the goal of which may be to tarnish the image of the Islamic fighters by stressing a key point of Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad that fundamentalists, supported by Salafist groups in Saudi Arabia, are amongst the Syrian rebels.
Al-Hadi Yahmad, a researcher on the affairs of Islamic groups, told Al-Hayat: ‘The issue of sexual jihad was initially attributed to a Saudi sheikh who denied it, and this fatwa is abnormal and not endorsed by religious scholars.’
He added that this fatwa — had it indeed been issued — may involve Syrian girls living in Syria, who can ‘support the mujahideen by marrying them for a few hours.’
Under Islamic law, a man can marry and consummate a marriage with his bride, before divorcing her the next day without any resistance from the bride or her family simply by following religious etiquette.
Noor Eddin al-Khadimi, said that Tunisians should not abide by the fatwa.
Her calls were duplicated by the Tunisian opposition also.
Salma al-Raqiq, a Tunisian opposition figure, said that the ‘jihad marriages’ were a disgrace for the Tunisians.
She also called on the authorities to start dealing with the increasing phenomenon of Tunisian jihadis heading to Syria to join radical Islamist groups.
Al-Raqiq told the UPI press agency that the phenomenon was a dangerous one. She said that young girls, including minors, have been sent to Syria to ‘marry’ jihadis for a few hours.