In 2014, Nadia Murad was taken away from her village, Kocho, in North Iraq, by ISIS due to her religious beliefs. Instead of being murdered like her mother and the men in her family, Nadia and the rest of the young women in the community were taken to be sex slaves in Mosul, where they would be continually raped, tortured, and exchanged like the objects ISIS believed them to be. I’m not here, however, to write about her story as a sex slave but to exemplify her fight against ISIS. A couple of months after escaping one of her captors, Nadia Murad, with the help of Barrister Amal Clooney, has become an advocate for her people by trying to find legal justice their suffering. She has previously claimed that destroying ISIS is not enough. She wants ISIS to be legally punished in a court and convicted for their crimes of sexual violence. This is what will allow her and her people to build resilience for the trauma they have been through.
I cannot even begin to fathom what Nadia Murad has been through, but I am inspired by her strive for justice after all she has experienced. What I find so remarkable about her case is her efforts in trying to acknowledge sexual violence as a crime. ISIS instead of murdering these women, specifically took them as sex slaves because that is even a greater form suffering; an act that traumatizes an individual for life. It is this act that is being used as a weapon of war. Years have gone by without the acknowledgement of this act as a crime. It wasn’t until recently that institutions and international courts began to view this as a weapon of war. This is where Nadia and Clooney’s efforts lie: in trying to get the UN and international courts to acknowledge this as a crime and begin to collect evidence to punish these perpetrators.
At Nadia’s book signing at the UN, beyond her poignant facial expression, she ignited a spirit to fight her cause. Everyone in that room knew that this was difficult for her. Many of us cannot even begin to understand the trauma she has endured. Yet, she stood there in a room full of people she did not know and told us her story courageously. One part of her conservation that resonated with me was when she spoke about betrayal and the turning back of her neighbors back in Iraq. Now, we are her neighbors and have to help her in her fight for justice and the acknowledgement of sexual violence as a weapon of war. These crimes cannot continue to go without being unpunished.