On the 5th of October, Nadia Murad Basee Taha was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. She is a German based Yazide-Iraqi human rights activist. The winners were announced in Oslo, the Norwegian capital.
According to Berit Reiss-Andersen, the Nobel committee chair, she was awarded this prize with Denis Mukwege for their efforts stemmed at ending the use of sexual violence as weapon of war and armed conflict.
Nadia Murad is the first Iraqi to be awarded a Nobel Prize. She founded the Nadia’s Initiative, an organization which helps women and children who have been victims of genocide and human trafficking to build their lives and communities.
Ms Murad was tortured and raped by Islamic State militants after being kidnapped and taken captive. Not only did she lose her mother in the genocide, she endured 3 months as a sex slave under the ISIS militants. She was bought, sold and re-bought several times.
She later became the face of a campaign to free the Yazidi people. About 331 individuals and organisations were nominated for the prestigious peace award this year.
How Nadia Murad was kidnapped
In early August 2014, ISIS had invaded the Sinjar region of Northern Iraq. They had only one mission in mind – exterminating the Yazidis. According to Nadia,
They called us a “pagan minority”, and because we don’t have a holy book we have been described as “devil worshippers”.
In her village, Kocho, which was home to over 1800 people, over 300 men were shot dead of which 6 of them were her own brothers. Their bodies were buried in irrigation ditches.
How did Nadia Murad manage to escape from the ISIS militants?
According to her, she had previously tried to escape from the hands of the first man who was her captive. She tried to escape but was immediately caught by one of the guards.
Under their rules, a captured woman becomes a spoil of war if she is caught trying to escape. She is put in a cell, and raped by all the men in the compound. I was gang raped, they call this practice the sexual Jihad.
After this, she couldn’t think of escaping again. The second man she stayed with stayed alone. He told her to wash up herself and get ready to be sold to someone else. Soon, she managed to leave the compound.
I called at a house, a muslim family with no connection Daesh lived there. I asked them for help. I told them that my brother would give them whatever they wanted in return. They gave me a black abaya and an Islamic ID and then took me to the border.
She was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Council of Europe in 2016 and called for an international court to judge crimes committed by IS in her acceptance speech in Strasbourg.
Ms Murad, the first Iraqi to win the award, was named the UN’s first goodwill ambassador for survivors of human trafficking later that year.
After escaping, she became an activist for the Yazidi people, campaigning to help put an end to human trafficking and calling on the world to take a tougher line on rape as a weapon of war.
Who are the Yazidis?
The Yazidis are monotheists who practice ancient gnostic faith. The ISIS and other followers of Islam consider the Yazidis as devil worshippers on account of their unusual beliefs. They are present in small communities mainly scattered across northwest Iraq, northwest Syria and southeast Turkey.
The BBC is quoted saying,
They revere both the Bible and the Koran, but much of their own tradition is oral. Due in part to its secrecy, there have been misunderstandings that the complex Yazidi faith is linked to Zoroastrianism with a light/dark duality and even sun worship. Recent scholarship, however, has shown that although their shrines are often decorated with the sun and that graves point east towards the sunrise, they share many elements with Christianity and Islam.
According to Hade Shingaly’s interview with BBC, he told them that the ISIS did not know about them when they first came to the community.
We don’t trust our neighbors, when IS came to our village, they didn’t know anything about the Yazidis. Our Muslim neighbors told them ‘the Yazidis don’t believe in God, that we aren’t Muslim.
Past killings of the Yazidis
On 3 August 2014, ISIL militants attacked and took over Sinjar in northern Iraq, a Kurdish-controlled town that was predominantly inhabited by Yazidis, and the surrounding area.
In August 2007, two Yazidi communities, in Qahtaniyah (just south of Sinjar) and Jazeera (Siba Sheikh Khidir), near Mosul, were hit by a total of four vehicle bombs carrying two tons of explosives, leaving 336–500 dead and 1,500 injured. Perpetrators are unknown; the U.S. saw “Al-Qaeda as the prime suspect” because of the scale and the co-ordinated nature of the bombings.
In April 2007, a bus in Mosul was hijacked, Muslims and Christians were told to get off, the remaining 23 Yazidi passengers were driven to an eastern Mosul location and murdered.
In August 2014, more than 300 Yazidi families were threatened and forced to choose between conversion to Sunni Islam or death.
After her escape
After Nadia Murad’s escape, she went as a refugee to Germany and later that year, she began to raise awareness against human trafficking.
In November 2015, she left Germany to Switzerland to speak to a UN forum on minority issues.
It was the first time I would tell my story in front of a large audience. I wanted to talk about everything – the children who died of dehydration fleeing Isis, the families still stranded on the mountain, the thousands of women and children who remained in captivity, and what my brothers saw at the site of the massacre.
According to her, she is only one of the hundreds of thousands of Yazidi victims. Her community is scattered, living as refugees inside and outside of Iraq.
I wanted to tell them that so much more needed to be done. We needed to establish a safe zone for religious minorities in Iraq; to prosecute Isis – from the leaders down to the citizens who had supported their atrocities – for genocide and crimes against humanity; and to liberate all of Sinjar.
I would have to tell the audience about Hajji Salman and the times he raped me and all the abuse I witnessed. Deciding to be honest was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, and also the most important.
Nadia Murad is now the founder of Nadia’s initiative. Her organization is helping women who are victims of war rebuild their lives.