The Yazidi community in Iraq and around the world expressed joy and hope after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its 2018 Peace Prize to Nadia Murad, a Yazidi activist and survivor of sexual slavery by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.
Murad will be sharing the prize with Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who treated thousands of women victims of rape and sexual violence.
The Nobel Peace Committee praised Murad’s courage because she did not accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and shamed after abuse.
“She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims,” the Norway-based Nobel Peace Prize Committee said.
Members of the Yazidi community told VOA their voices are now being heard and their plea for justice after the Sinjar massacre is being acknowledged by the world.
Nagham Hasan, an Iraqi Yazidi activist and a gynecologist who offered treatment and counseling for many Yazidi women in refugee camps in Iraq including Nadia Murad, told VOA that the recognition of Murad is not just the recognition of the plight of Yazidi women, but also everyone else in Iraq who suffered at hands of extremists.
“When Nadia escaped her captivity and arrived to the camp in Sinjar she was traumatized and afraid, but now she blossomed into this strong woman and became the voice of all men and women victims of sexual violence,” Hasan said.
Hasan’s work was recognized in 2016 when she was awarded the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage Award for “promoting gender equality, combating gender-based violence, and providing psychological support for survivors of violence.”
Mirza Dinay, a Yazidi physician who helped hundreds of Yazidi girls seek asylum in Germany, told VOA that he is thrilled that Murad got this prize, which is a symbol of women’s struggle against sexual violence worldwide.
“This is a win for Iraqis, Kurds and the Yazidi community and I hope this will encourage the Iraqi government to provide more support to the girls and women survivors of sexual violence,” Dinay said.
Dawood Saleh, a Yazidi man from Sinjar who has resettled in the U.S., told VOA that Murad’s persistence in making the world listen to Yazidis’ plight has paid off.
“As a Yazidi survivor from IS genocide I feel happy that Nadia received this award. It means to me that Yazidis have value in the world,” Saleh said.
According to United Nations, at least 10,000 Yazidis were either killed or abducted during the IS attack on Sinjar in 2014. The attack sparked international outcry and condemnation.
Murad was one of those kidnapped by IS in Sinjar mountain in northwestern Iraq. She was sold several times as a sex slave to different IS members before she managed to escape after 3 months in captivity.
In reaction to Friday’s announcement, Murad told Nobel Committee that she did not think that she had the strength to do the work she has been doing.
She said she derived her strength from thinking about what happened to her community and from the loss of many of her family members including her mother.
“This prize will make the voices of women who suffered from sexual violence in conflict heard, especially the women in minorities like my community the Yazidis. It tells us that our voices will be heard,” Murad told the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Murad has been a strong advocate for justice for all Yazidis who were kidnapped and abused by IS and continues to raise her voice against sexual violence.
“Whatever has happened to Yazidis, from August 3rd (2014) till now, they should get their justice. An international tribunal should be formed as soon as possible and Yazidis and other minorities who cannot protect themselves should be protected,” Murad told VOA in 2016 during an exclusive interview.
Yazidi rights groups estimate about 3,000 women and children remain missing, while thousands live under dire conditions in refugee camps in Iraq.