The Profile Dossier: Nadia Murad, the Survivor Taking ISIS to Court
“Survival is a kind of serendipity, one that empowers you to fight for the survival of others.”
Nadia Murad has endured unimaginable tragedy.
In August 2014, ISIS invaded the Iraqi province of Sinjar, an area home to the Yazidi ethno-religious minority.
Murad was 21 years old when ISIS members killed her mother, six of her brothers, and hundreds of men in her community. The militants then abducted her nieces and nephews, who were under the age of 16. “Eighteen members of my family have been killed or are missing,” she says.
Murad was taken to the city of Mosul, and forced, along with thousands of other young Yazidi girls, into the ISIS slave trade. She was repeatedly raped, beaten, and abused by her captors. “None of those people showed any mercy,” she says.
The first time that Murad attempted to escape through an open window, she was caught and put in a cell and violently brutalized by a group of militants. The second time, however, she was able to make a narrow escape thanks to an unlocked door.
At the time ISIS was in control of Mosul, and many of the people living in the city were Islamic State sympathizers. By an incredible stroke of luck, Murad knocked on the door of a Sunni Arab family that did not support ISIS.
The eldest son that lived in the home risked his own life to help Murad escape the city using a fake ID card, smuggling her through checkpoint after checkpoint, and driving her to the border. “You should have seen the happiness on her family’s face,” Jabar says. “Anyone would do it.”
Before the genocide in her village of nearly 2,000, Murad’s dream was to open a beauty salon. She would get inspiration from admiring women on their wedding days. “Then I would ask the bride for a photograph, which I added to a collection I kept in a thick green photo album,” Murad writes in her memoir. “I imagined that, when I opened my salon, women would flip through that album, looking for the perfect hairstyle.”
After the ISIS attacks on her community, Murad’s life unfolded quite differently than the one she had imagined. Following her escape, she has become a voice for the thousands of displaced Yazidis, many of whom remain captive.
“Girls as young as 9 years old were used as sex slaves, their fate is unknown, but we know that they are facing horrible treatment,” Murad says.
In 2018, she launched Nadia’s Initiative, which is a non-profit that advocates globally for survivors of sexual violence and for the rebuilding of communities in crisis. In the same year, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
During her Nobel lecture, Murad said, “Thank you very much for this honour, but the fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals ... The only prize that will restore a normal life between our people and our friends is justice and protection for the rest of this community.”
To bring justice to her community, Murad campaigns alongside human rights lawyer Amal Clooney for ISIS to be tried for war crimes in international criminal court.
For she has one purpose: “I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Profile to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.