The fate of the thousands of Yezidi’s under the hands of Islamic State (IS) has come to epitomize the brutality of the group. Thanks to the courage and determination of Nadia Murad and some prominent Western figures, the plight of the Yezidi community may finally receive the international focus it deserves.
Over two years since the atrocities in Sinjar, thousands of Yezidi girls remain under barbaric condition as sex slaves. In addition to the thousands of women and girls, thousands more men and boys were systematically slaughtered.
Murad, is a young Yezidi who was captured by IS in 2014. She witnessed the murder of six of her brothers before she was subjected to sexual and physical abuse along with thousands of other girls. She was sold as a slave a number of times before managing to escape.
The bravery of Murad and her determination to the take the Yezidi plight first hand to the international arena saw her travel to Europe and the United States. She recounted her experience first-hand to international audiences, including the UN Security Council in December 2015 where she briefed the first ever session on human trafficking on her experiences.
Murad stated at the time, “their cruelty was not merely opportunistic. The ISIS soldiers came with a pre-established policy to commit such crimes.”
Fitting of Murad’s courage and efforts to highlight the crimes against the Yezidi, she was announced in September as the United Nations’ first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Nadia that “there is no greater testament to human resilience and the spirit of solidarity than the strength, dignity, and extraordinary courage you show everyday in telling your story and working for a better world.”
Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani congratulated Murad on her appointment and vowed to provide her all the support she needs.
Recounting her story at the United Nations upon her appointment, she urged the Islamic world to stand with her against IS before adding “I call the international community to take actions and rescue Yezidi captives.”
Renowned Human Rights lawyer Amal Clooney has been instrumental in highlighting the Yezidi plight in spite of the obvious threats to her safety this entails. A high profile figure such as Clooney, who now represents Murad, brings much needed clout in efforts to recognise the genocide against the Yezidi.
Sitting side-by-side with Nadia at the United Nations, Amal denounced IS’s “bureaucracy of evil” and the “industrial scale” of IS crimes against the Yezidis.
Clooney stated her shame as a lawyer that nothing was being done about IS crimes and her shame as a woman that the likes of Nadia could endure such abuse.
Whilst the suffering of the Yezidis is beginning to receive the attention it deserves, it should not mask the lack of action from the international community. It has now been over two years since the acts of genocide took place and the Western powers only reacted in August 2014 when the crimes had long been committed.
Furthermore, it begs the question whether Western powers could have done more to prevent the rapid rise of IS in the first place.
The fact that thousands of girls remain in IS custody is a stain on the international community. There is little doubt that the reaction would have been much fiercer if the captured girls were of American or European descent.
Murad summed up perfectly when she addressed a recent UN refugee and migrants summit, “if beheading, sexual enslavement, child rape, if all those acts will not force you to act, what will?”
First Published: Kurdistan 24