As we draw to the final months of 2018, I elected to write about the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Whilst both Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege received the award, I opted to write solely about Nadia Murad’s story and achievements.
Nadia Murad was born in the village of Kojo, Iraq. Her family, of the Yazidi ethno-religious minority, were farmers. In 2014, at the age of 19, when Murad was still a student, Islamic State fighters ambushed the Yazidi community in her village and killed 600 people, including 6 of Murad’s brothers and step brothers. The younger women were taken into slavery.
In that year alone, more than 6700 Yazidi women had been captured and taken as prisoners, Murad included. She endured three months of as a sex slave at the hands of IS militants and was bought and sold several times, whilst being subjected to sexual and physical abuse.
Murad had previously tried to escape but was immediately caught and, as a result of attempting to escape, was raped by all the men in the compound. She lived in hopelessness and despair, fearing she may never be able to leave.
Later, when she was ‘sold’ to a man who lived in Mosul, by himself, she did manage to escape. Murad later said, although it seemed impossible at the time, that she somehow managed to leave the compound.
She stopped at the house of a family who, fortunately, had no connection to ISIS and they were able to help her cross into Iraqi Kurdistan. When she arrived, she found refuge in camps with other Yazidis, until she later reached Europe. Murad now lives in Germany.
Nadia Murad continued to campaign for the thousands of women who are still believed to be held captive by the IS and for the protection of survivors of human trafficking.
She was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Council of Europe. During her acceptance speech in Strasbourg, she called for an international court to judge crimes committed by IS.
Murad was also later awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.
In November 2015, a year and three months after ISIS ambushed Kojo, Murad left Germany and travelled to Switzerland to speak to a UN forum on minority issues. It was the first time she would tell her story in front of such a large audience.
Murad was named the UN’s first goodwill ambassador for survivors of human trafficking in late 2016. It was the first time a survivor of atrocities was awarded the distinction, the UN said at the time.
In Oslo, the Murad and Mukwege announced that they won their award for their “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.”
After she received the award, Murad stated that the “Persecution of minorities must end. We must work together with determination- to prove that genocidal campaigns will not only fail but lead to accountability for the perpetrators and justice for the survivors.”
The Iraqi President Barham Saleh called the award “an honour for all Iraqis who fought terrorism and bigotry.”
Today, most Yazidi villages, like Kojo, are uninhabited. Although ISIS has lost much of its territory in Iraq, few Yazidis have been able to return now liberated areas. They are not only prevented by security situations, but by political conflict. Murad says, “They need reason to believe they will live in safety.”
After all of Murad’s international travels, she still longs to return home. Maybe, she says, she will open a salon in Kojo one day.