Nadia Murad (Photo: Erem Kansoy)
20 February 2016
“My 6 brothers were killed in front of my mother's eyes. Then, they took my mother and killed her too. I grew up an orphan without a father; the only person I had in the world was my mother…”
21-year-old Nadia Murad was one of the many Kurdish girls kidnapped by Daesh (ISIS/Islamic State) in Shengel (Sinjar). The torture she was subjected to is difficult to put into words. Daesh murdered Naida’s entire family; she managed to escape to Europe. A speech Nadia made last December at the United Nations (UN) revealed with naked expression, the extent of the merciless suffering of Yazidi women right before the eyes of the world. As part of a series of discussions with human rights organisations in the UK, Nadia answered questions by Suna Alan for the Kurdish daily Yeni Özgür Politika. The interview was translated from Kurdish to English by Imren Öztas.
Abducted as a slave by Daesh she says she has forgotten about the murder of her mother and six brothers because the treatment women receive in Daesh’ hands is far worse than death. The major question in the interview is whether it is possible for Yazidi’s to return to the newly liberated Shengal? Nadia responds by saying the Yazidi’s have no confidence in the government and they’re diffident about reliving a similar genocide. The Government of Iraq recommended Murad, for the Nobel Peace Prize, “Before putting me forward for the Nobel candidacy, they must liberate the women and children held hostage by Daesh.”
Murad calls on everyone to take action towards freeing the young women in captivity and providing sufficient support for the ones who have escaped the horrific regime.
Wrapped in intense emotion Nadia says since the speech at the UN Security Council, no woman was rescued let alone any action taken. They're still waiting… Murad also criticises Kurdish women's organisations in Europe and says they have shown zero support or initiative in her cry for help.
A large number of young women are in similar situations to you. You chose to talk and fight. How did you find the courage to do so?
After escaping Daesh I sought refuge in the Zakho Qazy camp. Here I openly spoke about the seizure of women and girls by Daesh. Apart from a couple of journalists no one expressed our problems. Neither did the Iraqi or Kurdish governments provide any means of support for rehabilitation or healthier living conditions; they also made no attempts to send any women in our situation abroad. I did not have a passport or any adequate travel documents to go abroad. Germany promised to accept the refuge of a thousand young women in my position and my case was accepted. I arrived in September last year.
In the summer I became a member of the Yazda Foundation. The UN Security Council reached out to the foundation wanting to host a young woman freed from the hands of the Daesh in their meeting. The Foundation asked me if I was ready to share my story and I said “yes". I spoke not just about myself, I spoke on behalf of my family, my community, the children in the war zone and every other person displaced and affected by the situation.
Two months has passed since my campaign began and although no action has been taken, as of yet, the masses afflicted were happy to hear someone express their problems.
The so-called Islamic State abducted an estimated 5800 women and children. They have killed many in Iraq and Syria and millions of people have been displaced. They slaughtered Yazidi men and kidnapped the women and children, taking them to camps and sex slave markets in Syria and Iraq. This genocide, rape and forced displacement is all being done in the name of Islam.
During your time in the refugee camps did you receive any treatment support from the The Iraqi or Kurdish government?
I stayed in the camp for months in Southern Kurdistan (N.Iraq), and met hundreds of young women who had also escaped Daesh. The truth is, after all the difficulties we were exposed to, being sold, all the dirty things they made us do, someone should have taken urgent action for us. In contrast, survivors who have fled were unable to obtain even a tent. Everyone had to make use of what was present, no other additional measures were taken by officials. The Iraqi or the Kurdish leadership gave no sincere help. No support was provided for women who had fled Daesh. These orphaned women need all kinds help, as simple as having decent clothes to wear.
A portion of Shengal is liberated, will the Yazidi’s return to their home?
A year and a half later, the Yazidi genocide continues. We are being slaughtered every day. They killed my six brothers in front of my mother’s eyes, and then murdered her elsewhere. I grew up without a father and my mother was the only person I had in the world. When I was taken to Mosul to be sold, the cruel memory of my family being slaughtered escaped my mind; I witnessed things far worse than death. Girls as young as 9 were being hired or sold in the sex slave market. Imagine how humiliating this immoral treatment is for people who were leading normal and peaceful lives only a year and a half ago. I understand you haven't lived through this but I have. Many consider my story painful but there are victims out there who have lived, and are living through worse tragedies.
Approximately 3,100 women and children are currently in the hands of Daesh. All we want is the emancipation of our women and children. Yes, Shengal has been rescued but 40 percent of the town still remains in their hands and so far more than 27 mass graves have emerged. We cannot go back there! Not only have our homes been demolished, we have lost our confidence. How are we to be sure another massacre will not occur?
We have lost our trust in the government. In order for us to return, our country needs to be under international protection. This is not the first time Yazidi’s have been exposed to genocide; we cannot accept it any longer. Yazidi’s and those suffering from this war want all communities and humanity to unite against Daesh.
Daesh is a danger to all nations, not only Iraq or Syria. They have members from all over the world. I plead for everyone to help the ones affected by this war even if it is the bare minimum.
Can you talk about any developments at the UN Security Council after the meeting? What happened to your demands? Have any concrete steps been taken?
Nothing I said during my speech at the meeting was a secret; they were things that everyone already knows. After my speech, I met with US Secretary John Kerry and scientist Susan Wright from the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Women and Gender History. I pleaded with them for help. They both promised to do everything in their power. We are still waiting for their response to our requests.
So far I have campaigned and attended many meetings in Egypt, Greece, Kuwait, Norway, USA and currently Britain. My primary appeal in these conventions is the freedom of women and children held in slavery and secondly for recognition of the genocide by taking into account the discovery of the mass graves.
I want people, regardless of who they are, Yazidi, Muslim or whatever to rise up against this matter. This is an attack on all of us. It is a problem that is costing many human lives. The situation for Yazidi women and girls is critical but people from many different communities lost and are losing their lives and homes too.
The ultimate goal for us is the liberation of all women and girls from the hands of Daesh. We are in need of urgent support if things are to be improved. We need to stop Daesh recruiting new youth and brainwashing them with their ideology. For females currently held captive by Daesh there are many families like the one who helped me, willing to help in Iraq and Syria. I’ve asked many Muslims to help these women by calling their local Muslim community, asking for them to be rescued.
There are men risking their lives to save the lives of these women and children. There are also the ones willing to save them in return for money. However many families do not have the financial means to pay the price they demand. Many have lost family members who usually provided for them. Our girls have no one to provide the money needed for their freedom. Therefore, anyone able to help the Yazidi community financially, I urge you to do so urgently.
Have any Kurdish women's organisations in Europe reached out to you to offer their help?
No, none of them did.
Is there a message you would like to pass on via this interview?
We need the help of every human being regardless of who they are. Let's help each other; let’s face this barbarism together. A year and a half has passed and our people are still desperate, hungry and in the heart of this atrocity. We plead to everyone to help in any way they can. Regardless of gender or religion, I’m asking for everyone's support and assistance.
The Iraqi government put you forward for the Nobel Peace Prize…
Forget about the Nobel Peace prize. Before proposing me as a Nobel candidate they must liberate the women and children held hostage by Daesh. When Germany accepted a thousand women as refugees, they treated us well and looked after us all. We were given a comfortable place to stay along with a monthly allowance. They really helped us gain normality back in our lives. We were all overwhelmed and suffered a lot before receiving this support. We need people who can provide this kind of help. Many of us have lost some, if not all our family members. Therefore, I urge you to do for these women whatever you can do.
An excerpt from Nadia’s UN Security Council Speech December 2015: I urge the extermination of Daesh
‘They took us to Mosul with more than 150 other Yazidi families. In a building, there were thousands of Yazidi families and children who were exchanged as gifts," she said to the15-member council. The man who took me asked me to change religion. I refused. Then, he asked for my hand in marriage, so to speak. "That night he beat me. He asked me to take my clothes off. He put me in a room with the guards and then they proceeded to commit their crime until I fainted. I implore you, get rid of Daesh [ISIS] completely.’