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On the front lines of ISIS territory, PBS Frontline reveals rescues of enslaved woman




Kashmiri demonstrators hold up a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a demonstration against Israeli military operations in Gaza, in downtown Srinagar on July 18, 2014.
Kashmiri demonstrators hold up a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a demonstration against Israeli military operations in Gaza, in downtown Srinagar on July 18, 2014.
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images

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A new documentary airing tonight on Frontline follows the leader of an "underground railroad" operation in Northern Iraq that rescues women and children who have been taken captive by the self-declared Islamic State.

Khalil al-Dakhi was a lawyer before his town was overrun by ISIS fighters. Now he and his network are approached by his fellow Yazidis, a religious minority group,  to organize rescues of abducted relatives. The filmmakers interviewed women who were raped repeatedly by their abductors. Frontline also shows found video of ISIS fighters bragging about their plans to capture women to use as slaves.

Foreign affairs analysts deem sexual violence a common "weapon of war," but some scholars worry focusing on rape as a weapon can blind people to the more common and complex patterns of sexual violence associated with war. Writing in "The Washington Post," Kerry Crawford, assistant professor of political science at James Madison University, says refugees fleeing Syria have experienced sexual assault by landlords and employers who exploit economic vulnerability. Crawford and her co-writers also write that during war, intimate partner sexual violence is more common than rape by combatants. They warn that "graphic, selective narratives about patterns of sexual violence carry weighty foreign policy implications.... Yet wars fought partially in the name of 'saving women' in the Middle East have produced disastrous results for those very women – and for civilians in general."

Guests:

Evan Williams, Reporter for PBS Frontline's "Escaping ISIS"

Kerry Crawford, Assistant Professor of Political Science, James Madison University; Crawford is completing a book focused on how the international community first came to understand sexual violence as a weapon of war; "Wartime sexual violence is not just a ‘weapon of war’" in The Washington Post