The Oslo Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad. The young Yazidi woman endured multiple rapes by Jihadis. After she fled, she found the courage to speak out against their madness. For Chaldean priests, there are hundreds like her who need help to get over their trauma.
Erbil (AsiaNews) – Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman victim of sexual and other violence at the hands of the Islamic State (IS) group, was this year’s co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Fr Samir Youssef, pastor in the Diocese of Amadiya (Kurdistan), spoke to AsiaNews about the decision of the Nobel committee. In his view, the award is the recognition of her courage as a “living symbol and memory” of the violence and massacres endured by an entire people. It is also a call for “healing the victims who still have to deal with the trauma of the abuses they had to endure”.
Over the past few years, the Chaldean priest has helped thousands of Christian, Muslim and Yazidi refugees who fled their homes in 2014 to escape the IS-installed “Caliphate”.
He saw with his own eyes the devastation endured by the victims, often young women – some underage - treated as real sexual slaves by Jihadis.
This morning the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo announced that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Dr Denis Mukwege, a Congolese physician and activist and Nadia Murad, the Yazidi activist.
According to the motivations the Committee cited the recognition of "their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict".
Sexual violence is now recognised as a weapon used by soldiers and is often associated with massacres or genocide against entire populations, as was the case in Iraq against the Yazidi minority.
Nadia Murad, 25, was taken in August 2014 from her native village of Kocho, near Sinjar, to Mosul, IS’s stronghold in Iraq. During the Jihadi siege of Mount Sinjar, the young woman lost six brothers and her mother.
In the capital of the "Caliphate", she was subjected to repeated rapes and torture, along with thousands of other young women, some of them minors.
During her captivity, she was beaten, burnt with cigarette butts, and raped several times. She escaped when her torturers were distracted, taking refuge with a family that helped her to reach a refugee camp in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan.
In September 2016 she became the first UNODC* Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. A month later she was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the highest human rights award granted by the European Union (EU), for her commitment to victims.
The Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority concentrated in Iraq, are among the groups who suffered the most at the hands of the Islamic State group (also known as Daesh based on its Arabic acronym), a treatment akin to genocide according to some activists.
As soon as she was free, Nadia Murad Basee (with Lamiya Aji Bashar) had the courage and strength to tell the world about the horror that they, as well as thousands of other women and girls, had to endure under the Jihadi yoke.
"This award, for which Patriarch Sako was also a candidate, is great and makes us happy and proud," said Fr Samir. The recognition is "a token of encouragement, a hymn to life and a source of hope after the drama suffered under Daesh."
What goes for Yazidis also goes for "all minorities, including Christians, who have had to endure war, terrorism, and rape" as weapons of war.
Nadia Murad "teaches us all that life is stronger than negative experiences, that it goes on despite evil and must come with forgiveness, which is a source of reconciliation". Nadia’s strength and courage, according to the clergyman, "are a sign of God's love".
For Fr Samir, giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the Yazidi woman is a clarion call to "know the stories of suffering and persecution" that have been told repeatedly in the past few years in Iraq. It is an invitation to speak out.
"I personally know many young women who have endured the same violence and have never found the strength to talk about it. They just weep in silence full of shame.”
"Hopefully, now the world will pay more attention to their tragedy, their suffering, and strive to provide them with the appropriate help to overcome the trauma. Even today in Iraq there are hundreds like Nadia Murad."
* United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime