TW: Mentions of sexual violence
This is the inspiring yet heart wrenching story of Nadia Murad, who battled against terrible odds, survived to tell the harrowing tale, wrote a bestselling memoir and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Many of you may have seen Nadia Murad, the Yazidi survivor represented and brought to the public eye by Amal Clooney. Her life so far has been both stirring and terrifying. She is an example of someone who has risen up from the torment she suffered and went on to do her best to remedy it not only for herself but for others as well.
Nadia Murad Basee Taha was born in Kocho, a small farming village in northern Iraq. The Yazidi community occupying it is one of the oldest religious minorities in the world. Nadia was 19 when the Islamic state first entered her village. One day, when she was walking outside with her sister she saw some men with face coverings and rifles, the same men that she had seen on TV once, shooting and murdering and beating up innocent people. That’s when she realized what was in store for her village.
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In the August of 2014, ISIS started capturing the territory around Sinjar and entered Kocho, taking siege and killed thousands, while abducting hundreds. Nadia Murad’s brothers were amongst those who were captured and killed. She and her sisters were taken captive along with the other remaining women of the village to be held as slaves. They were transported like cattle to Mosul and tortured.
They selected unmarried girls, mostly young adults and teenagers, and took them away. Inhuman, monstrous treatment was meted out to them and they were then sold as slaves, bought, swapped and traded by the militants. Nadia was kept in her captor’s house; beaten, raped for over a month, till one night she managed to escape when the door of the house was mistakenly left unlocked. She asked the neighbours for help. They took pity on her and managed to smuggle her out to a refugee camp further north. By early 2015, she had reached Germany thanks to the refugee program run by the German government.
For those who can stomach it, Nadia Murad has written two books encapsulating the horrors that she and other Yazidis went through; The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State. For those who would prefer watching, ‘On Her Shoulders’ is a documentary about her fight for the vulnerable Yazidi victims.
The world was awakened to the horrors of sexual trafficking and brutalities at the hands of ISIS when Nadia Murad spoke to the UNSC (United Nations Security Council). Despite the death threats she received after speaking out, she continued in her fight to avail justice. In 2015, Amal Clooney appeared before the UN to represent Nadia Murad, and said, “She was burned with cigarettes, she just endured the most brutal acts known to humanity.”
When ISIS sent her really specific threats as Clooney revealed saying, “We will get you back . . . we will do everything to you . . .”, Nadia Murad instead continued her fight to bring justice for all the victims and advocated for the release of more than 3,500 women and girls that still held in captivity by ISIS.
The United Nations has so far failed to curb the violence in the Middle East. The unprecedented war crimes are almost unspeakable.
In 2016, U.N. appointed Nadia Murad as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She was also named as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2016.
She was the co-recipient along with Denis Mukwege of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict and speaking up against inhuman sexual trafficking. By raising his voice and speaking up against human rights abuses, Denis Mukwege has also received death threats.
In April 2019, Nadia Murad spoke at Harvard where she raised an important point about why it was so vital that she could avail justice, considering how in the history of genocides, women’s voices have never been heard before.
In her role as a true humanitarian, Nadia Murad started a charity called ‘Nadia’s Initiative’ for protecting survivors of sex trafficking. Her aim is to have government agencies and international organisations support the sustainable re-development of the war torn Sinjar. Their work involves partnering with communities, both local and global to repair the destruction that ISIS’s genocide caused. With the help of UAE aid, her organisation is providing for clean water, sanitation, and hygiene services for six villages in the North Sinjar region. In September 2020, they delivered medical supplies to Sinjar General Hospital. They have also taken up projects for rehabilitation of farming and agricultural industries in the once war torn zones. She started a program in December 2018 to relocate Yazidi women and children to France with the help of the Crisis and Support Centre of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
June 2020 was the 6th anniversary of the Yazidi genocide and while a lot has been said and done, Nadia Murad is still not done campaigning for justice for the victims of sex trade and war crimes. She has constantly urged the Iraqi government and international humanitarian organisations to resolve the horrible challenges that Sinjar to this day faces. Her fight for justice has had her repeatedly calling upon the United Nations to bring about an end to systematic sexual slavery and trade of the displaced Yazidi families and support to their livelihood. The inhuman perpetrators that caused the devastation of Iraqi families have gone unpunished, but Nadia’s endeavours have raised an awareness that will possibly stir organizations into action.
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At the young age of 27, Nadia Murad has made a monumental impact in the international humanitarian scene. By highlighting the need to cater to women’s psychosocial health, support and safety, she is educating the world on injustices met out all over the world and is giving the victims a voice. She recently stated that women would suffer more during the pandemic considering how they are seen as targets of gender-based violence (GBV) in war, conflict, economic crises, disasters, pandemics, and in their everyday environments.
Nadia Murad’s simple words “I wish the world would let women feel safe” ring true and are relatable to any woman who is reading this.
Ishita Shah is a lawyer, bibliophile, animal-lover. She finds dogs better than humans. She volunteers at a couple of NGOs and loves travelling and schooling people on double standards. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Featured Image Source: FT