My Best Weapon: A story of Dignity and Courage

“I tell my story because it is the best weapon I have” Nadia Murad, 2018 winner of Nobel Peace Prize

Courage, dignity, and peace. These are tenets that the Nobel Peace Prize seeks to reward and encourage, and this year’s winners have both demonstrated the importance of these tenets in their life and work.  This October, the Oslo-based committee chose two recipients who have been vocal proponents of ending gender-based crimes: Denis Mukwege, a Congolese surgeon who has spent his life treating women who are victims of rape, and Nadia Mura, a Yazidi woman captured and held as a sex slave by the ISIS.  The winners and their joint cause is particularly fitting in that this is the tenth anniversary of UN Resolution 1820, which condemns the use sexual violence as a tool of war and denotes such acts of violence as “crimes against humanity.” Murad joins a small group of only 17 other women who have won the prize and is the only Iraqi to win.

Nadia Murad is 25 year old Yazidi human rights advocate whose horrific story of courage, resilience, and deep belief in peace has inspired many.  After years of local fighting, ISIS rose to power in Iraq and began their reign of terror, with a particularly brutal response to the Yazidis, murdering thousands and taking thousands more as sex slaves.

In 2013, Nadia was captured in her small village of Kocho where after witnessing ISIS kill her mother and six of her brothers, she was taken to Mosul where she was sold in a slave market.

She was enslaved and beaten by ISIS military, and eventually sold to an ISIS judge, Hajji Salman, who continued to rape and beat her. After fifteen months in captivity, Nadia escaped when her captor left the front door open and she courageously ran away. Not knowing how to escape Mosul, she knocked on a door and was luckily met with kindness; a Muslim family helped her obtain fake Islamic identification, and then at great risk smuggled her to a refugee camp in Kurdish controlled territory where she was reconnected with one of her surviving brothers. She was then granted asylum in Germany where she continues to reside.

In November 2015, Murad told her story before the United Nations. She wanted the world to know what had happened to her and she wanted to be the last girl that would have to suffer as she did. She also wanted ISIS held accountable for their war crimes. As part of her speech, she implored the UN to work harder to protect vulnerable populations in conflict zones.

Since her escape, Murad has won numerous awards, such as the Vaclav Human Rights Prize, Sakharov Prize, the Clinton Global Citizen Award, and the Peace Prize.

She also published a book, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State. She has also been named the United Nations first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. Despite all of her notoriety and awards, she continues to work tirelessly for the Yazidi people and women and girls around the world who are war victims of gender-based violence. Her work aims to hold terrorists accountable for their actions; something many say is impossible. She is also committed to stopping the use of rape and sex slavery as weapons of war and terrorism. Her focus is forward-looking, hoping to help victims move on with their lives and help them recover the dignity that was stolen from them.

Terrorism has far-reaching impacts on victims all over the world, but all too often we only hear of the large bombings in major western cities and forget about the thousands who suffer every day at the hands of terrorists. Women and girls continue to bear the brunt of the daily suffering as groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, and others continue to exploit women, raping, beating and selling them, and aiming to take their dignity.  But women like Murad, hope to shine the light so bright, that people will begin to hold these groups accountable for their crimes. Murad says, “I tell my story because it is the best weapon I have.” She hopes her words can educate others, build empathy, help to end the suffering that women endure, and perhaps most importantly, find justice for all the women who have suffered by bringing these cases to trial.

Nadia Murad (Credit AP)

Kristine Olsen

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