AIJAC congratulates Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad, a co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, for her work “to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” She shares the award with Dr Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist and surgeon, who has been deservedly recognised for his work treating thousands of victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Murad was only 21 when in 2014, ISIS attacked her homeland in Sinjar with the intention of ethnically cleansing Iraq of all those belonging to the minority Yazidi religion. Her mother and six brothers were killed. Murad was taken captive by ISIS and held as a sex slave for three months in Mosul, where she was repeatedly tortured and raped. She managed to escape to the Kurdish region of Iraq, and then to Germany. Despite her personal trauma, Murad found the courage to become an advocate for the Yazidis and victims of sexual violence. She has called on the international community to recognise the Yazidi genocide and preserve evidence that would allow ISIS to be held accountable for its massacres, abductions and rapes of thousands of Yazidis. The genocide of the Yazidis by ISIS has been formally recognised by the United Nations, the European Union and countries including the US and Australia.
On learning that she had won the Nobel Peace Prize, Murad stated: “As a survivor, I am grateful for this opportunity to draw international attention to the plight of the Yazidi people who have suffered unimaginable crimes since the genocide by Daesh, which began in 2014. Many Yazidis will look upon this prize and think of family members who have been lost, are still unaccounted for, or remain in captivity. Like many minority groups, the Yazidis have carried the weight of historical persecution. Women and girls have suffered greatly as they have been, and continue to be, the victims of sexual violence. For myself, I think of my mother, who was murdered by Daesh. I think of the children with whom I grew up, and what we must do to protect them.”
In Murad’s campaign to draw attention to the plight of the Yazidis she has met with several Jewish organisations including AIJAC’s American partner the American Jewish Committee. Murad also visited Israel last year with the support of IsraAID and Yazda, a Yazidi non-profit organisation, meeting with members of the Knesset and calling on Israel to recognise the genocide of the Yazidis. At a conference in Israel, Murad spoke of the shared experience of genocide suffered by Jews and Yazidis:
“This is not the first time people have used their power to destroy a group of innocent human beings, simply because of who they are. This is something you know all too well, and your families have had their own tragic and difficult journeys…
We have faced 74 pogroms, often motivated by extreme interpretations of Islam. And I’m afraid this genocide, the one that continues today, will be complete, if we are not able to return to our homeland. Sinjar continues to be a disputed territory. It is now controlled by more than five competing militias, but none fight for us. Yazidis strive for, but are given no say, in deciding the future of our homeland…
I know that like the Jewish people, we have always survived. These experiences inspire us to hold onto our culture and identity. And importantly, our experiences drive us to stand up for others who are being persecuted, as you have chosen to do today. This is why I use my voice to speak on behalf of those who are silenced, like the 3,000 women and girls still in the hands of Daesh [ISIS] terrorists. My visit here today is to ask you to recognize the genocide being committed against my people, in light of our peoples’ common history of genocide.”
Murad also told the Jerusalem Post that Jewish resilience after the Holocaust had inspired hope for victims of ISIS, and that many in her community were eager to learn from Israel to see how Jews were able to build anew after such devastation.
The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Murad is well deserved. It recognises her extraordinary courage to speak out against genocide and sexual violence for her community and for those without a voice. It also reminds us that her struggle is far from over, as over 3,000 Yazidis remain missing, with many believed to still be in captivity. And despite some measures to bring ISIS fighters to justice, ISIS’s crimes including genocide, ethnic cleansing and sexual violence have largely gone unpunished. Murad’s Nobel Peace Prize brings the spotlight back to these important issues that justice requires be addressed.