Nadia Murad, Yazidi woman who survived ISIS captivity receives Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.

On October 10, 2016, the Council of Europe awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize to 23-year-old Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman formerly held captive and abused by ISIS, now turned human rights activist. Murad was also expected to receive the Nobel Peace Prize this year but such distinction was conferred to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos earlier this month.

In August 2014, terrorist group ISIS raided the northern Iraqi province of Sinjar killing Yazidi men and boys and abducting around 5,000 women. Murad was one of the women separated from her family, tortured, forced to convert to Islam, raped, and sold to be a slave. Her suffering lasted for three months until she eventually found a way to escape from the ISIS territory.

For the last two years, she’s been actively campaigning to gain world attention on the plight of Yazidis persecuted and living in limbo in Iraq. Murad said 18 of her family members are either still enslaved or dead. And out of the estimated 5,000 Yazidis abducted by the Islamic State two years ago, 3,000 are still in captivity. Among those who responded to Murad’s call were human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Last month Murad was granted the title UN Goodwill Ambassador primarily to the victims of human trafficking.

During her speech in Strasbourg, France, Murad remembered the traumatic times in ISIS captivity. She highlighted the plight of very young Yazidi boys indoctrinated to become terrorists and young girls forced into sex slavery, “They sought to force us to deny our religion, as they considered us to be nonbelievers. And they killed men and enslaved women, and abducted children in order to transform them into terrorists. I have met young girls who were raped at an age when they didn’t even know what the word meant. I met people who lost their entire families; whole families were wiped out.”


She declares the 2014 Yazidi killings genocide and urges international legal bodies, particularly the International Criminal Court, to make ISIS and its members accountable for their crimes, “I will go back to my life when women in captivity go back to their lives, when my community has a place, when I see people accountable for their crimes…So that one day we can look our abusers in the eye in a court in The Hague and tell the world what they have done to us. So my community can heal. So I can be the last girl to come before you.”

Murad firmly believes religious intolerance is the reason why her fellow Yazidis are being persecuted and still suffering. Part of her speech is the call for respect when it comes to religious freedom, “We need to have religious freedom, we must accept difference wherever it arises and we must make sure that all parliaments are aware of what happened to us.”

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