Nadia Murad: A young woman like no other

Nadia Murad  

When news came in that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to former ISIS captive Nadia Murad and Congolese physician Dr. Denis Mukwege, I realised just how powerful media can be. Dr. Mukwege and Ms. Murad were honoured by the Nobel Committee “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”.

I first met Murad in 2016 in New York, and subsequently in London and Davos. I couldn’t help but recall how far the world had come since the plight of the Yazidis first hit the headlines. Most people hadn’t heard of this tiny, pre-Islamic minority community of Iraqis living in the Sinjar mountains, until the ISIS came along to terrorise, kidnap and essentially annihilate them.

I first heard about the Yazidis at the Women In The World (WITW) summit in New York, the live journalism platform founded by award-winning editor Tina Brown, to showcase stories of courageous women. In 2015, when Vian Dakhil, the sole female Yazidi member of Parliament from Iraq, and her sister Deelan, spoke on the WITW stage, they begged for the world to pay attention to the horror ISIS was unleashing in the region. By then, Nadia, then 19, had already been captured by the ISIS. Luckily, she managed to escape.

Ms. Brown recalls the first time she met Nadia. “She has a small voice, which seemed to rise in firmness as she told us her story, unflinchingly and with so much suppressed pain,” she says. “I was incredibly impressed with her courage, speaking about the atrocities she not only witnessed but experienced first-hand.”


In September 2016, I met Nadia at a small gathering at Ms. Brown’s home. She was like no other young woman I had ever met. She looked, in a word…hunted. And then — she spoke. She described, via a translator, the horror she and many other victims had suffered. She told us she was from a farming family, and that life was peaceful before the ISIS came and kidnapped her, took her to Mosul and sold her. She was held for three months and experienced unspeakable acts. To be in that living room, up close, with a survivor of such abhorrent, ghastly abuse, was inexplicable. There wasn’t a dry eye in a room of journalists, activists and philanthropists. We had no way of comprehending how people could perpetrate such cruelty on one another.


In an interview with WITW, Nadia was asked why she was risking everything by speaking out about her ordeal as there was a threat to her life. She said: “I am continuing to do this because millions of women and girls have no rights. Daesh (ISIS) took my family, my future, my life. But what I have in my heart, and what I’ve always had, is justice. Despite everything they did, they couldn’t take away the knowledge I had that I was right and they were wrong.”

Subsequently, Amal Clooney took up Nadia’s case and that of Yazidi women at the International Criminal Court, which got the Yazidis more public attention. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Ms. Brown says, “Shows that the world IS watching and that we need to continue to fight to stop violence against women and to support all women like Nadia. Violence perpetrated against women is finally at the forefront.”

(The author is a Mumbai-based journalist)

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 1:39:05 PM |

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