The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to 25-year-old Yazidi activist, Nadia Murad, and Congolese gynecologist, Denis Mukwege, for their “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” In recent years, Murad has become one of the most vocal and internationally-recognized activists fighting against the Islamic State (IS), speaking at the UN, authoring a memoir called The Last Girl, spearheading the Oscar-nominated documentary “On Her Shoulders,” and creating the non-profit organization “Nadia’s Initiative” to advocate for victims of sexual violence.
Murad’s story shocked the international community, revealing the horrors of sexual slavery within the IS’s reign of terror over the Middle East, and raising awareness of the Yazidi community as a whole. The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking ethno-religious group in Iraq, were brutally targeted by the Islamic State in what the UN has formally recognized as a genocide of Yazidis. When IS massacred the Yazidi-held town of Sinjar in 2014, 5,000 Yazidis were killed and over 100,000 were displaced. U.S. troops, alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga, PKK and YPG began an offensive against IS and were able to evacuate the majority of the displaced Yazidi population. Over 6,000 Yazidis, however, were captured, with children taken to be trained as child soldiers and women sold into sex slavery by IS militants. When her hometown of Kocho, in Sinjar, was attacked by IS, Murad and her sisters were all captured, while her mother and six brothers were murdered.
After being caught attempting to escape, Murad became a victim of the horrific practices that IS labels as “sexual jihad.” Murad was later, however, successful in her endeavor to run away from the compound, stopping at the home of a family that helped her escape to Iraqi Kurdistan and later on to Europe, where she was the recipient of the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Council of Europe in 2016.
Murad has been lauded and recognized for her openness, eloquence, and tremendous courage in telling her harrowing story of being held as a slave under IS. Today, she is a UN Goodwill Ambassador, serving as the first UN Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. Although she still lives in Germany, Murad travels around the world frequently, speaking about her experiences, her culture, and her efforts as a human rights activist, leading and campaigning for “Nadia’s Initiative.”