Former Iraqi ISIS prisoner awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Murad is only one of a limited number of Nobel laureates from the Middle East since the annual award was given beginning in 1901.
Sunday 07/10/2018
A story of survival. A 2016 file picture shows Nadia Murad, public advocate for the Yazidi community in Iraq, delivering a speech at the European parliament in Strasbourg.  (AFP)
A story of survival. A 2016 file picture shows Nadia Murad, public advocate for the Yazidi community in Iraq, delivering a speech at the European parliament in Strasbourg. (AFP)

LONDON - Yazidi campaigner Nadia Murad and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege have been awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in combating sexual violence in conflicts zones around the world.

The campaigners were honoured for their “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war,” Nobel Peace Prize Committee Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said. “A more peaceful world can only be achieved if women and their fundamental rights and security are recognised and protected in war.”

Murad and Mukwege will formally receive the award December 10 in Oslo, Norway.

Murad, 25, was recognised for her work highlighting the plight of the more than 100,000 Yazidis attacked, killed and enslaved by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters during their insurgency in Iraq and Syria.

Mukwege, a 63-year-old gynaecologist, received the award for his more than two decades of work helping women recover from the violence and trauma of sexual abuse and rape in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

“They have both put their own personal security at risk by courageously combating war crimes and securing justice for victims,” the Nobel committee said in announcing the award.

“Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, war crimes. Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others,” the committee said. “Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.”

Murad is only one of a limited number of Nobel laureates from the Middle East since the annual award was given beginning in 1901 and the first Yazidi to be so honoured. She is the second youngest to have received the award, after Malala Yousafzai, who received the Nobel Peace Prize when she was 17 in 2014.

Prior to the 2014 purge of Sinjar by ISIS fighters, Murad lived in the relatively unremarkable village of Kocho. However, after being taken prisoner, she was enslaved and transferred to ISIS’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul where she described being beaten, burned with cigarettes and raped when trying to escape.

Murad witnessed Yazidis being forced to renounce their religion. With most of the men killed, Murad saw their children being conscripted and forced to train as ISIS fighters. Thousands of women were forced into involuntary labour and sexual slavery.

Describing the experience to the United Nations in 2016, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney characterised the genocide, rape and trafficking of Yazidis by ISIS as a “bureaucracy of evil on an industrial scale.” She said the slave market extended to the internet.

Like thousands of other Yazidi women, Murad was forcibly married to an ISIS fighter, beaten and made to wear makeup and tight clothes. However, with the help of a sympathetic Muslim family from Mosul, Murad was provided with false paperwork and crossed dozens of kilometres into Iraqi Kurdistan, where she joined other displaced Yazidis in camps.

There, she learnt that six of her brothers and her mother had been killed.

Since then, Murad has established a new life in Germany where she campaigns for what she calls, “our peoples’ fight,” becoming a well-known spokeswoman for the Yazidi people.

In 2016, along with her friend Lamiya Haji Bashar, she was awarded the European Union’s Sakharov human rights prize. The same year she was named the first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking of the United Nations.

Her book, “The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State,” was published in 2017.

Murad and Mukwege were selected from a list of 331 Nobel Peace Prize candidates, including Pope Francis and the leaders of North Korea and South Korea, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, who were considered for their efforts in de-escalating tensions between their two countries.

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