This past Friday saw another blow to the heinous practice of sexual violence. Yazidi activist and rape survivor, Nadia Murad Basee Taha, was named co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. She shares the honor with one Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist who currently heads up the Panzi Hospital in the Congolese city of Bukavu, and has been relentlessly vocal about governments around the world not doing enough to prevent the mass rape of women fleeing violence in their homeland.
In their citation, The Norwegian Nobel Committee hailed Murad and Mukwege for their focus on bringing an end to the use of “sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war”. The citation continues, “both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and fighting, such war crimes”. tweet
In their citation, The Norwegian Nobel Committee hailed Murad and Mukwege for their focus on bringing an end to the use of “sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war”. The citation continues, “both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and fighting, such war crimes”.
Upon hearing about the honor, Murad said, via a statement on her website, “I am incredibly honored and humbled by their support and I share this award with Yazidis, Iraqis, Kurds, other persecuted minorities and all of the countless victims of sexual violence around the world. As a survivor, I am grateful for this opportunity to draw international attention to the plight of the Yazidi people who have suffered unimaginable crimes since the genocide by Daesh, which began in 2014. Many Yazidis will look upon this prize and think of family members that were lost, are still unaccounted for, and of the 1,300 women and children, which remain in captivity. Like many minority groups, the Yazidis, have carried the weight of historical persecution. Women in particular have suffered greatly as they have been, and continue to be the victims of sexual violence.”
Murad herself is no stranger to sexual violence, having been captured by Daesh in 2014, and subjected to rape by a host of different men. Narrating her own harrowing tale, she has recounted how she and hordes of Yazidi women were kidnapped, separated from their families, and taken to Mosul, as overwhelming dread blanketed the group of young women at their certainty that they were being taken to be used for rape. Nadia explained that as a captive of Daesh, she was raped and used for a few days, only to be passed around like a gift afterwards to be raped by other fighters. She recalls that this was the story of all the girls held captive. That they were used as sexual conquests for up to two weeks, and passed on as if they were inanimate objects. Perhaps the most poignant moment comes courtesy of the instant Nadia exclaims, “I wished that when they killed our brothers, our mothers, I wished they had killed us all as well.”
As for the Daesh, and the perpetrators of sexual violence around the world, this is a warning. This is an acknowledgment, that although they may have become accustomed to getting away with their heinous behavior in the past, their free reign is at an end, and accountability is knocking at their door. tweet
Yazidis are a Kurdish ethnic minority group indigenous to a northern area of Mesopotamia. Their religion, Yazidism is a monotheistic-based faith that has been said to combine a host of teachings from other monotheistic religions such Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Whilst the persecution of the Yazidis span centuries, more recently, they have been treated as “devil worshippers” by supporters of Daesh, hence being seen as worth little more than inanimate objects, culminating in Daesh’s justification of this unthinkable practice of sexual violence.
Since her escape from captivity, Nadia has taken on the commendable goal of bringing the Yazidi plight to the global stage. She has spoken out at the United Nations, urging the global delegates to take note of the genocidal campaign against her people. In 2016, she appeared in Canadian parliament to deliver an impassioned plea that more had to be done to resettle Yazidi refugees into lives that had some semblance of normalcy, rather than seeing refugee camps as a solution to the problem. No doubt, the onslaught of global awareness brought to the Yazidi cause via this Nobel Prize win will be a welcome addition to Nadia’s already admirable efforts.
As for the Daesh, and the perpetrators of sexual violence around the world, this is a warning. This is an acknowledgment, that although they may have become accustomed to getting away with their heinous behavior in the past, their free reign is at an end, and accountability is knocking at their door. The “otherizing” that men of violence attempt to invoke in order to justify the humiliation and use of women as tools for their own pleasure is finally being acknowledged, and fought against.
In Nadia’s own words, “Persecution of minorities must end. We must work together with determination – to prove that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators and justice for the survivors. We must remain committed to rebuilding communities ravaged by genocide…We must support efforts to focus on humanity, and overcome political and cultural divisions.” I really couldn’t express it better myself because what more is there to say?