In the end, it was Rawa Auge, Al Jazeera’s Arabic presenter, who began crying. Her idea was to prevent the audience from asking Nadia Murad, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a survivor of Islamic State (IS) atrocities, intrusive questions that might upset her.
Ms. Murad told her story and that of other Yazidis, a religious minority that straddles parts of Iraq, Syria and Turkey, who have been killed, abducted and raped at the hands of IS fighters, calmly and precisely.
Away from the IS
The Nobel winner, in her mid-twenties, escaped under dramatic circumstances from IS custody. All the men, including her brothers and mother, were killed when IS men took over her village, Kocho, in 2014. As many as 3,200 Yazidi women are still in IS hands and as many as 6,500 have been kidnapped and abused after being termed “concubines” by the Islamist terror group, she said. “There has been no initiative to save these women; neither from Iraq nor the international community. Some escaped and ISIS called families and sold them back,” Ms. Murad said at the Doha Forum on Sunday. “Iraqi and Arab women keep mum about sexual exploitation… I dispensed with such taboos; ISIS thought women would not talk about rape. I was strong — I talked about the rape. We want ISIS perpetrators brought to justice,” she said.
Her message to the international community was rather simple — if IS men were not brought to book for rape, murder and abduction, these crimes would occur again.
Her message to Arab countries was also simple: they must do more to fight religious extremism so that small minorities like the Yazidi (total population 4,00,000) don’t become victims again and are able to return to the Sinjar area, their homeland.
Ms. Murad, as a girl, dreamed of starting a beauty parlour in her village. What did she dream of today, she was asked by Ms. Auge. “Helping the Yazidis to come back to their homes and live peacefully. Breed our cattle; live with our Christian and Muslim neighbours,” Ms. Murad replied.
When the Q&A session ended, Ms. Murad got a standing ovation. Looking around, this reporter could see that Ms. Auge was not the only one who had tears in her eyes. Some in the audience, too, were visibly emotional.