Nadia Murad, formerly enslaved by the IS Group, will build a hospital for sexual abuse survivors with the money of her 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.
Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman held as a sex slave by the Islamic State Group who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said Friday she intended to use the prize money to build a hospital for victims of sexual abuse in her hometown.
The Yazidi survivor was speaking to a crowd of hundreds in Sinjar, her hometown in northern Iraq. “With the money I got from the Nobel Peace Prize, I will build a hospital in Sinjar to treat ill people, mainly widows, and women who were exposed to sexual abuses by Islamic State militants,” she told the crowd and gathered journalists.
She thanked the Iraqi and Kurdistan governments for agreeing to her plan and said she would be contacting humanitarian organizations “soon” to start construction.
Murad was awarded the US$1 million prize alongside Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.
She was one of about 7,000 women and girls captured in northwest Iraq in August 2014 and held by the Islamic State Group in Mosul, where she was tortured and raped.
She escaped after three months and reached Germany, from where she campaigned extensively to gain support for the Yazidi community.
The Yazidi area in Sinjar had previously been home to about 400,000 people. The community, a majority Kurdish speaking religious group, has faced oppression historically. They have been persecuted as infidels by Muslim rulers and were forcibly displaced under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
But the brutality by the Islamic State Group is unmatched. In 2014, in a matter of days, more than 3,000 Yazidis were killed and about 6,800 kidnapped, the latter were either sold into slavery or conscripted to fight for them.
Yazidi men were executed and the bodies of Yazidi women became battlefields as they were sold as sex slaves to Islamic State Groups fighters.
“Every day, men were coming to choose and take girls, and they would beat them if they cried or resisted,” Hala, a young woman said to Elle magazine. Her entire family was captured and kept in a warehouse.
“We will take you to your husband,” the men used to say while taking women and girls away.
Hala’s mother chopped off her hair, smeared her face with ashes and asked her to behave like a mentally disabled person so that the men would not capture her. She was saved but her mother and siblings were all sold-off as sex slaves.
The survivors of this torture paint a macabre story. A 16-year-old girl was not only raped by her “owner” but also by his wife and children.
An excerpt from the book “With Ash on Their Faces: Yazidi Women and the Islamic State” published by The Guardian, describes in depth the plight of Yazidi women.
The author, Cathy Otten, wrote that Islamic Group fighters “were carrying out a pre-planned mass abduction for the purpose of institutionalized rape. Initially, they were looking for unmarried women and girls over eight.”
To avoid being taken many women harmed themselves by scratching their faces to look unattractive or committed suicide.
According to the Islamic State Group, by killing the Yazidi men and enslaving the women, they were eliminating the community in what they considered a service to society.
The IS Group also used the promise of sexual slavery to recruit men as fighters. “Slavery serves to increase the Isis community because Yazidi women will give birth and the children will be brought up among its fighters,” a group's pamphlet stated.
Some Yazidi women have successfully fled from slavery but scores remain captured. The Yazidi community also received help from Kurdish fighters who liberated Sinjar from the IS Group in 2015. Many Yazidi women are also joining Kurdish women to fight the IS Group.
But their demands for justice have not been met yet. Islamic State Group fighters are being prosecuted by various countries for the crime of being a "member of a terrorist organization" but not for systematic rape.
For Yazidi survivors that do not entail the justice they want. Pari Ibrahim, a prominent Yazidi woman and young lawyer has taken it upon herself to gather evidence and testimonies from victims to bring the perpetrators to court.
She, through her non-profit organization Free Yezidi Foundation, has spent the last few years linking survivors to their Islamic State Group captors to build cases.
“The Yazidis have been persecuted for centuries and no one has ever been punished for what they did," Hala said. "We want the world to know who did this to us and we want those people in jail.”