In our Me2# time, it seems particularly important to examine the women who have gone before us or are with us now for the great achievements they have made and the cost it took to get there. One woman who has made a quick leap from obscurity to fame is Nadia Murad.
A quiet, country girl in Iraq, she is of the Yazidi faith and lived in Kocho, a small village in the northwestern province. The Yazidi are a people who have been practicing their religion since before Christianity or Islam. They are not vocal about it; they tend to keep to themselves. On May 4, 2016, ISIS attacked the Yazidi, forcing many to flee up their sacred mountain, Sinjar. However, estimates of 10,000 were killed. Being somewhat out of the way, Kocho’s attack didn’t start until the 16th.
The village’s residents watched as the town was blockaded and large trenches were dug on its outskirts. They were scared, the men continually calling people of prominence elsewhere to try to get support. The images on television made them panic.
At 19, Nadia was the youngest of nine children. Her father also had a number of children through his second wife. On the day ISIS made their move on the village, all residents were instructed to go to the high school. There the men were sorted out from the women and taken away. They were lined up in the trenches and shot. Two of her wounded brothers managed to escape. A younger one was forced to become a soldier. Six died.
The women were then sorted out, older women separated from their daughters. It was many months until they found out the women had also been shot to death, including Nadia’s beloved mother. Younger women and girls, some even with young children, were herded upstairs at the school until they were corralled onto buses. From there they were driven to Mosul where they were placed in a large room with many other Yazidi women.
They were to become sexual slaves, or “sabia”, to ranking ISIS officials and men who had proven their worth to the cause. The women were traded like baseball cards, sometimes staying with a man for a week, sometimes only a day or hour. They were brutally treated by the men, but also by the wives if they saw them at all.
Nadia was held captive for two months until her “owner” forgot to lock the front door and Nadia made good her escape. She found a family willing to help her, eventually getting her to the border at great risk to their own lives. While Arab, they could not, in good conscience, reject Nadia.
She made her way to a refugee camp where she found some relatives still alive. After a time, she was accepted into a program where 1,000 women and children migrated to Germany. A group called Yazida encouraged her to speak to the UN Advisory Committee. From there she has spoken in the Americas, Europe, and other countries about the plight of the Yazidi. Amal Clooney has become her lawyer to support her and give more authority to the condition of her people.
Nadia is eloquent and doesn’t pull any punches. Rarely does she smile but her words speak volumes. She has a message to bring to the world and she is doing it one word at a time. To date, she has spoken in America, the United Kingdom, Germany and Europe along with other countries. She speaks of her own people but also of Genocide in general.
There are many places in the world where genocide is taking place…South Sudan and Myanmar are just two more. Even though it has been happening since time immemorial, it is a vital issue which must be halted if we are ever to become a civilized world. And Nadia’s voice is bringing the world to greater attention to both her people and those who also need a voice crying out of the wilderness of violence.