Nadia Murad continues to fight for justice for the Yazidis

Internationally, she became the face of the genocide of the Yazidis by the Islamic State (IS) – of the sexual violence and atrocities committed against the women and girls in her community. As a human rights activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, Nadia Murad now fights for justice for her people as well as for survivors of genocide and human trafficking worldwide. Her gruesome story above all shows courage and strength…

Nadia (26) is a Yazidi woman who grew up in Kocho, a village in Sinjar in Northern Iraq. “I didn’t know about the Nobel Peace Prize before”, she says. “I knew nothing of the armed conflicts and murders that take place around the world on a daily basis.”

“How could people commit such horrible crimes against each other?” Nadia asked herself this question many times. “As a young girl, I had humble ambitions – to finish high school, stay with my family and open a beauty salon in our village. But my dream quickly became a nightmare”, she recalls…

A brutal massacre
Nadia’s nightmare began when IS descended on Kocho in 2014. Some villagers managed to flee to Mount Sinjar, but many of them died of hunger, thirst and a lack of medicine – images of suffering that spread all over the world. Almost all men and older women were brutally executed, including Nadia’s mother and six brothers. Our houses, our families, our traditions, our people, our dreams – they were all destroyed”, says Nadia. “Our whole world ripped out from underneath us.”

Life as a slave
The younger women were kidnapped and sold, sexually abused and tortured. Nadia was also captured, resold and abused several times. In her book I Will Be Last, she describes the harrowing details of what happened to her. At just 21 years of age Nadia managed to escape from the clutches of a jihadist in Mosul. He left his front door unlocked and she ran, fleeing to the Iraqi governed Kurdistan by pretending to be the wife of a Sunni man – a man who risked everything to bring her to safety.

More than victims
Yet Nadia refuses to let the atrocities inflicted on her by IS fighters define her. “I have another story to tell”, she says. “I fought back by holding IS accountable and revealing their crimes. My book is my therapy – and a small source of justice.” And one thing’s for sure – she’s just getting started…

Today, Nadia lives in Germany – where she continues to work tirelessly to bring about justice and protection for her people and survivors of sexual violence. Nadia is committed to showing the world that Yazidi women are so much more than victims. “We have been through so much but have so much more to give”, she says. “Yazidi women are courageous and above all, survivors. Wherever we are in the world, we are fighting back – resisting defeat, overcoming our trauma and confronting our perpetrators.”

A voice for justice
Nadia is the spokesperson for the Yazidi community worldwide. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 and became the first United Nations (UN) Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Victims of Human Trafficking. “Thanks for this honour”, she said as she collected her award on the night. “But the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice – the prosecution of the criminals that did this to us.” Some six years on, her words carry great weight. To this day, many Yazidi women remain in captivity while others are stripped of their fundamental rights and reduced to a life of hardship in some of the world’s largest refugee camps.

Yazidi faith
The Yazidi people are an ancient minority in Iraq who, despite their rich ancestory, have been persecuted for centuries. They do not consider themselves Muslims, instead identifying as ‘Ezidi’ – the people of God.
Their religion is unique in that it contains elements of many different world and religious views with influences from Christianity and Islam. Yazidis believe in God, and in the archangels who rule the world. In her book, Nadia describes the community in which she grew up in and the religious customs of the Yazidi faith.

A history of genocide
Misunderstandings about the ‘mysterious’ Yazidi religion have fueled a total of 73 genocides over the centuries. The Iraq War, which Nadia experienced first-hand as a child, created a new wave of sectarian violence – leaving the Yazidis increasingly isolated from their Sunni Arab neighbours. Yazidis were labelled as ‘devil worshippers’ by IS, legitimising the brutal massacre and slavery of hundreds of their people.

Justice and healing
Today – together with Amal Clooney, a well-known human rights lawyer -Nadia is accelerating her fight for justice. Global Yazidi organisation, Yazda supports Nadia’s mission in a bid to see IS brought to the International Court in The Hague and tried for genocide and crimes against humanity. Beyond this, Nadia also founded Nadia’s Initiative – an initiative to support survivors of genocide and human trafficking and rebuild Yazidi communities. She does this in Iraq together with Dorcas. “I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine”, says Nadia. “Which means we have work to do…”

Want to learn more? You can read about our WASH programme in partnership with Nadia’s Initiative here.

21 November 2019

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