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She says the way in which Isil has made rape central to its policy is something quite new - it goes ‘beyond what we have seen before’.But history tells us otherwise: Isil’s leaders would like us to think it is the most frightening terror organisation that’s ever existed, but they are by no means the first group of men to use mass rape as a deliberate policy.
The mass rape of German women as the Red Army advanced at the end of the Second World could be said to fall into the first category; the Russians even raped women inmates of Ravensbruck concentration camp, including communist prisoners and women who had themselves fought in the Red Army before capture. Earlier this week a House of Lords committee was transfixed as the Hollywood star talked about the rape of girls as young as seven in war zones.Jolie is campaigning on the issue of sexual violence and peers listened intently as she accused Islamic State (Isil) of deliberately using rape as the ‘centrepoint of their terror’.She described Isil as the ‘most aggressive terrorist group in the world today’ and said it’s aware that sexual violence is a ‘very effective weapon’.She recalled meeting a 13-year-old girl in Iraq who had been kept in a room with many other girls and raped repeatedly; even worse, according to the girl, was that the fact that she and her friends were forced to stand in rows and listen as potential buyers argued about what they were worth.For centuries, this kind of behaviour was tolerated by senior officers, even if some of them disapproved of it.
But there have been plenty of instances of rape being officially sanctioned: according to Amnesty International, the Japanese army forced up to 200,000 women and girls into military brothels during the Second World War, where they were known by the appalling euphemism ‘comfort women’.
Many were Chinese or Korean, and around three-quarters died as a result of multiple rapes and beatings.
Harrowing stories about the sale of women from the Yazidi religious minority have been emerging from Iraq for some time.
So has the fact that Isil has openly embraced rape as part of its ideology, encouraging followers to sexually assault non-Muslim women.
Last month it emerged that the organisation’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, repeatedly raped the American hostage Kayla Mueller before her death and personally kept Yazidi girls as ‘sex slaves’.
• William Hague on his 'unusual alliance' with Angelina Jolie Jolie’s call for a ‘very, very strong response’ to these horrors is welcome.