Nobel Peace Prize 2018: Nadia Murad's incredible journey from jihadist slave to Nobel laureate

The 25-year-old Murad once lived a quiet life in her village near the mountainous Yazidi stronghold of Sinjar in northern Iraq, close to the border with Syria.

AFP Relaxnews October 05, 2018 17:11:26 IST
Nobel Peace Prize 2018: Nadia Murad's incredible journey from jihadist slave to Nobel laureate

Baghdad: Nadia Murad survived the worst cruelties ever inflicted on her people, the Yazidis of Iraq, before becoming a global champion of their cause and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. On Friday, Murad and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege were jointly awarded the prize for their "efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war," Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said in unveiling the winners in Oslo.

Nobel Peace Prize 2018 Nadia Murads incredible journey from jihadist slave to Nobel laureate

File image of Nadia Murad. AFP

The 25-year-old Murad, her thin, pale face framed by her long brown hair, once lived a quiet life in her village near the mountainous Yazidi stronghold of Sinjar in northern Iraq, close to the border with Syria. But when the so-called Islamic State jihadist group stormed across swathes of the two countries in 2014, her fate changed forever and her nightmare began.

One day in August that year, pick-up trucks bearing the black flag of the jihadists swept into her village, Kocho. Islamic State fighters set about killing the men, taking children captive to train them as fighters and condemning thousands of women to a life of forced labour and sexual slavery.

Today, Murad and her friend Lamia Haji Bashar, joint recipients of the EU's 2016 Sakharov human rights prize, continue the fight for the 3,000 Yazidis who remain missing, presumed still in captivity. Islamic State fighters wanted "to take our honour, but they lost their honour," said Murad, now a United Nations goodwill ambassador for survivors of human trafficking.

It is an evil she personally experienced during a harrowing three months. After being captured by Islamic State fighters, Murad was taken by force to Mosul, the de facto "capital" of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate. During her ordeal she was held captive and repeatedly gang-raped, tortured and beaten.

The jihadists organised slave markets for selling off the women and girls, and Yazidi women were forced to renounce their religion. For the jihadists, with their ultra-strict interpretation of Islam, the Yazidis are seen as heretics. The Kurdish-speaking community follows an ancient religion, revering a single God and the "leader of the angels", represented by a peacock.

Like thousands of Yazidis, Murad was forcibly married to a jihadist, beaten and forced to wear makeup and tight clothes: an experience she later related in front of the United Nations Security Council. "The first thing they did was they forced us to covert to Islam", Murad told AFP in 2016.

Shocked by the violence, Murad set about trying to escape, and managed to flee with the help of a Muslim family from Mosul. Armed with false identity papers, she managed to cross the few dozen kilometres (miles) to Iraqi Kurdistan, joining crowds of other displaced Yazidis in camps.

There, she learnt that six of her brothers and her mother had been killed. With the help of an organisation that assists Yazidis, she joined her sister in Germany, where she lives today. She has since dedicated herself to what she calls "our peoples' fight", before a well-known spokeswoman even before the #MeToo movement swept the world.

The Yezidis numbered around 550,000 in Iraq before 2014, but some 100,000 have since left the country. Many others have fled and remain in Iraqi Kurdistan, reluctant to return to their traditional lands. Slight, and soft-spoken Murad has now become a global voice, campaigning for justice for her people and for the acts committed by the jihadists to be recognised internationally as genocide.

And she and the Yazidis have won a high-profile supporter: Lebanese-British lawyer and rights activist Amal Clooney, who also penned the foreword to Murad's book, "The Last Girl", published in 2017. The same year, the UN Security Council committed to helping Iraq gather evidence of Islamic State crimes.

Yet, in contrast to all the tragedies that have befallen her, recent pictures on Murad's Twitter feed show happier times. In August, she announced her engagement to fellow Yazidi activist Abid Shamdeen. "The struggle of our people brought us together & we will continue this path together," she wrote. Underneath, a photo showed her next to a young man in a bow tie, her face still framed by her long brown hair, but this time, bearing a broad smile.

Updated Date:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

World Bank reports drop in number of people living in extreme poverty in India, but worldwide figures give cause for concern
India

World Bank reports drop in number of people living in extreme poverty in India, but worldwide figures give cause for concern

As per the 'Future Development' blog on poverty, India is home to the second largest population of extreme poor, behind only Nigeria & just ahead of Congo.

Democratic Republic of Congo votes in presidential election after two years of political turmoil
World

Democratic Republic of Congo votes in presidential election after two years of political turmoil

After two years of delays, crackdowns and political turmoil, the Democratic Republic of Congo voted on Sunday in presidential elections that will determine the future of Africa's notoriously unstable giant.

Ugandan rebels kill between 12 and 30 in overnight attack on DRC hospital: NGO
World

Ugandan rebels kill between 12 and 30 in overnight attack on DRC hospital: NGO

At least 12 people have been killed in an overnight attack blamed on Ugandan rebels in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.