Nadia Murad, a member of Iraq’s Yazidi minority was kidnapped and sexually abused by Islamic State militants (ISIS) in 2014 but escaped. The 25-year-old is the first Iraqi to receive this prestigious award.
Murad once lived a quiet life in her village in the mountainous Yazidi, a stronghold of Sinjar in northern Iraq. Her dream in life was to have a beauty parlour in her village. However, this dream was shattered and unexpected things took place. The ultras stormed her village, killed all the men and took children as captives to train them as fighters. The women were used as forced labourers and sex slaves.
Murad was held captive and repeatedly gang-raped, tortured and beaten. She was then forcibly married to a jihadist. She managed to flee with the help of a Muslim family from Mosul. With false identity papers, she crossed to Iraqi Kurdistan and joined displaced Yazidis camp.
Most of her family members, six brothers and mother, were killed. With the help of an organisation that assisted Yazidis, Murad was reunited with her sister in Germany. She became an activist after escaping. She and her friend Lamia Haji Bashar jointly received the EU’s 2016 Sakharov Human Rights prize.
Murad has dedicated herself to what she calls ‘our peoples fight’. She has also campaigned for the acts committed by ISIS to be recognised internationally as genocide. Lebanese-British lawyer and rights activist Amal Clooney has penned the foreword to Murad’s book, The Last Girl, which was published in 2017.
At the ceremony, she told world leaders to translate sympathy for victims into action against the abusers. “Thank you very much for this honour. But the fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals,” she said.
“Young girls at the prime of life are sold, bought, held captive and raped every day. It is inconceivable that the conscience of the leaders of 195 countries around the world is not mobilized to liberate these girls. What if they were a commercial deal, an oil field or a shipment of weapons? Most certainly, no efforts would be spared to liberate them,” she added.
Norwegian princess Mette-Marit, who was present at the ceremony, fought back tears as she listened to the powerful speech of sexual violence survivor Nadia Murad, a joint winner of this year’s prize.