In September 2016, Nadia Murad Basee Taha sits in front of the United Nations Security Council and former United Nations Secretary General, Ban-ki Moon. Her lawyer, Amal Clooney, delivers a speech, in criticism of the global reaction to the IS Yezidi genocide. The speech is met by applause, as a tearful Murad Basee looks at her lawyer with a smile. Nadia Murad Basee is a survivor. She is now an activist for women’s rights as well as victims of sexual violence and a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Commission (UNODA). She was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and before this, a sex slave.
In August 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (or ISIL) captured the city of Sinjar. The Yezidis predominantly populated Sinjar, Iraq. They are an ethno-religious minority who speak Kurdish and follow the religion of Yezidism. The religion was founded in the 12th century and is monotheistic – believing in only one God: Melek Tawwus. Melek Tawwus is said to be a fallen angel who returned to Heaven after receiving the forgiveness of God. However, in religions like Judaism and Christianity, a fallen angel is the Devil. Due to this, they were known as Devil worshippers.
However, as ISIL’s stronghold in Iraq grew, their invasion of Sinjar was seen as a specific persecution of the Yazidi religion. The existence of Yazidis made them targets to ISIL, as they do not follow Islam, which made them degenerates in the eyes of ISIL.
The capture of Sinjar led to the capture of its citizens. Young girls, like Nadia, were taken as sex slaves to be raped by ISIL members while the rest were either executed or taken to nearby slave markets, becoming victims of human trafficking. Young women were forced to have intercourse with militants and were beaten and tortured if they resisted. There are over 5,000 Yazidis who have died during this ethnic cleansing with more than 5,000 missing – a number beyond horror.
In 2015, however, Nadia was part of a group of Yazidis who were liberated. After immigrating to Germany, Nadia has acted as a voice for the community, representing those who can not express themselves. She has appeared before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and has urged multiple others like the European Union (EU) to officially recognise the Yazidi genocide. She, along with her lawyer, have criticised the global community’s response and lack of action to the event, calling for the discussion on the “need for accountability for crimes committed by ISIS.”
The purpose of this article, however, is not to discuss the war crimes, using the deaths of people as statistics to support an argument. The purpose of this is to appeal to people’s compassion. Nadia Murad is a survivor indeed, but she is far more than that. She is a symbol of perseverance and hope for the Yazidis, who have previously survived attempts of genocide. There are too many articles that mention Murad but solely as a “former sex slave.” Being champion for the community who works tirelessly for the betterment of her people and the protection of their rights needs to be underlined far more than the crimes inflicted upon her. Nadia’s past is not Nadia. Her hard work and that of organisations like Yazda, and the Free Yezidi Foundation, needs to be appreciated. At a time where governments are failing the Yazidi people, it is important that we, as the global community, step up to the plate and support those who are not allowed to support themselves.
Yes, Nadia Murad is a “former sex slave” but she is also a bastion of Yazidi voices in the world and an indefatigable advocate for the rights of her people.
If you’d like to learn more about the Yazidi Genocide, visit www.yazda.org or www.nadiamurad.org to access more information. The writer would also like to thank Nikki Marczak of Nadia’s Initiative and Yazda for her help with this article.