WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - US Vice President Mike Pence met on Tuesday with Nadia Murad, the Yezidi [Ezidi] woman, who was held captive and brutalized by the so-called Islamic State (IS) and named co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter, was also present at the meeting. She is serving in an unpaid position as Advisor to the President. Her husband, Jared Kushner, holds the title Senior Adviser to the President and has emerged as a very influential figure in the Trump White House.
Following his meeting with Murad, Pence tweeted on Tuesday, “Nadia’s dedication and bravery in standing up for victims of [IS] brutality is an inspiration,” as he added, “Well-deserved, Nadia.”
Welcomed @NadiaMuradBasee to the @WhiteHouse today. @IvankaTrump & I congratulated her on winning the #NobelpeacePrize. Nadia’s dedication and bravery in standing up for victims of ISIS’ brutality is an inspiration. Well-deserved, Nadia! pic.twitter.com/hOfXxhYlG7— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) October 9, 2018
Pence has been engaged for some time in US efforts to aid religious minorities in northern Iraq who suffered from IS persecution, including the Ezidis. However, Ivanka Trump’s involvement is new.
It may be attributable to the fact that Murad received the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts “to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict,” as the Nobel committee explained.
The participation of the President’s daughter in the meeting with Murad, whatever the reason, is significant, as it marks the involvement of another influential political faction in the Trump administration on this issue—a potential counter to the State Department, which has long been reluctant to address the question of criminal trials for IS’ atrocities.
On Tuesday, before the meeting with Murad, Ivanka tweeted her congratulations, telling her, “Your courage and strength serves as an inspiration to all.”
Congratulations @NadiaMuradBasee on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for your work with Denis Mukwege to end the use of sexual violence and human trafficking as a weapon of war.— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) October 9, 2018
Your courage and strength serves as an inspiration to all. https://t.co/g89FhkzFYi
Murad, for her part, posted a picture on her Facebook page, along with a note, thanking the Vice President and Ivanka Trump “for welcoming us at the White House today,” and explaining, “we had a follow-up meeting [with] Vice President Pence about helping minorities in Iraq.”
“We also had a good discussion on our partnership moving forward, [and] we [are] grateful that Vice President Pence confirmed his support for [Ezidis].”
Responding to a question from Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert hailed Murad as “a very heroic woman, who’s done so much to advance the cause of not just religious freedom, but also freedom for women, especially freedom from sexual crimes.”
Nauert also explained that Murad had been “one of the guests” at the State Department’s ministerial conference in July on international religious freedom. “We were so proud to have hosted her here,” Nauert said.
Indeed, Pence addressed that conference and highlighted the persecution of the Ezidis. “Perhaps no faith community was so cruelly targeted by [IS], as the Ezidis,” he said.
“Nadia Murad is with us today,” Pence continued, as he explained that IS “butchers” had entered her village in 2014, as the terrorist organization overran northern Iraq, and “slaughtered more than 600 Ezidi men and boys, including six of Nadia’s brothers and stepbrothers.”
So what about justice in regard to those horrendous crimes? One might think it would follow naturally from such deeds. But the US position is negative.
Murad spoke Monday at Washington’s National Press Club and, answering a question from Kurdistan 24, complained, “So far, we have not seen justice for the Ezidis, especially the victims of sexual slavery.”
Although the US, UN, and others have formally recognized IS’ butchery of the Ezidis as genocide, the Iraqi government has not. Murad urged that Baghdad be pushed to do so.
Kurdistan 24 asked Nauert whether the State Department might do so, and she replied, “I’m not familiar with [Murad’s] remarks.”
Nauert’s answer reflected a long-standing State Department unwillingness to pressure Baghdad on this issue, going back to the Obama administration.
Similarly, Murad called for international criminal trials for the IS butchers. When Kurdistan 24, asked about that, Nauert’s reply was similar.
As Amb. Stephen Rapp, Barack Obama’s Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues from 2009 to 2015, explained in 2016, IS’ assault on the Ezidis is “one of the strongest cases I have ever seen as an international prosecutor of the crime of genocide.”
Although the Trump administration has changed its predecessor’s policies on many issues, including Iran, US policy on Iraq remains essentially the same, with the same people, doing what they have long done.
Notably, Nauert began Tuesday’s press briefing by reiterating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s call last week for the Senate to approve the 65 State Department nominees awaiting confirmation.
They include the nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Were that position to be filled with a Trump appointee, almost certainly, changes in US policy toward Iraq would follow. Until then, however, Ezidis may well see, sadly, little real US support for justice.
Editing by Nadia Riva