WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - “So far, we have not seen justice for Yezidis (Ezidis),” Nadia Murad, co-winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, said on Monday, as she addressed journalists at the National Press Club in Washington DC.
Murad, who received the peace prize along with Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, for her efforts “to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict,” as the Nobel Committee explained, is a Ezidi woman who was captured by the so-called Islamic State (IS) in 2014. She spent a month in captivity, raped and brutalized by the terrorist organization, before managing to escape.
Last December, Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s outgoing Prime Minister, declared that IS had been defeated, but the lives of Iraq’s Ezidi citizens remain upended.
Some 3,000 Ezidi women and children are still missing, unaccounted for, presumably in IS’ captivity.
Ezidis remain displaced in huge numbers. Some 250,000 of them still live in camps, because their homes are in areas too dangerous to allow their return.
“What is needed now, for Ezidis to return home,” Murad explained, “first and foremost, is security.”
Murad could point to one bright spot: the “start of demining” in the Ezidi areas.
That is due in significant part to a Trump administration decision, led by Vice President Mike Pence, to address, in particular, the plight of religious minorities in northern Iraq.
Following the Nobel Peace Prize announcement , Pence tweeted his congratulations to Murad, describing her as “an inspirational & courageous voice.”
Congratulations to the incredibly deserving @NadiaMuradBasee for receiving the #NobelPeacePrize. She’s an inspirational & courageous voice for Iraq’s persecuted religious groups. The US continues to stand with the Yazidi people & remains committed to restoring these communities.— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) October 5, 2018
“The US continues to stand with the [Ezidi] people & remains committed to restoring these communities,” Pence wrote.
In July, the State Department hosted the first-ever ministerial conference on International Religious Freedom. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced then that the US would devote an additional $17 million for demining in Nineveh Province, including the Ezidi areas.
However, the destruction wrought by IS is vast, and the situation in Sinjar (Shingal) remains “dire,” Murad explained on Monday.
The city had a population of nearly 90,000, before IS’ assault. But no single power exercises authority in the area now, and that is a serious problem.
“There has been a lot of political competition” in Shingal, “which makes it difficult for Ezidis to stay there,” Murad explained.
Speaking to Kurdistan 24 after her press conference, Murad called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to become more involved in providing security in the Ezidi areas.
Sam Brownback, US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, speaking earlier at the conference on Religious Freedom, decried the lack of security in the Ezidi areas, which he had witnessed in a trip to Iraq, explaining that he had raised the issue with Abadi, as well as US commanders there.
The lack of justice—a formal, legal judgment, along with punishment—for IS members responsible for the atrocities against the Ezidis, remains a burning issue for many, including Murad.
Murad suggested to Kurdistan 24 that the KRG needed to push the Iraqi government to recognize the Ezidi genocide.
The KRG has done so, as has the US. However, Baghdad has not recognized IS’ assault on the Ezidis as genocide.
“We have not seen justice,” she said, “especially for the victims of sexual slavery.”
“There is public evidence,” Murad noted—“even [IS] videos, showing what they did to Ezidis,” she affirmed, answering a question from Kurdistan 24.
“But as far as seeing justice in a court of law, we have not seen that happen.”
Indeed, formal, lawful, criminal proceedings are the essence of justice for Murad.
“For me, justice doesn’t mean killing all the [IS] members who committed these crimes against us,” she explained.
“Justice for me is taking [IS] members to a court of law and seeing them in the court” and having them sentenced and “punished for those crimes.”
Editing by Nadia Riva