Nadia Murad wants the international community to rebuild the Sinjar province in Iraq that is home to the Yazidis. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

SHARJAH: The perpetrators of the ethnic cleansing of the Yazidi minority group in Iraq have still not been brought to justice, says Iraqi Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Nadia Murad.

In an exclusive interview with Gulf News on the sidelines of the ‘Investing in the Future’ conference’ in Sharjah, Nadia warned the international community for failing to rebuild the Sinjar province in Iraq that is home to the Yazidi ethnic minority she belongs to. Such crimes and acts of violence against the minority, she said, should never be allowed to happen again.

Like many minorities, Yazidis have a history of being persecuted, Nadia said. Women in particular have suffered greatly and have been victims of sexual violence and are still undergoing captivity, she said.

Nadia Murad takes a selfie with students on the sidelines of the conference. Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

“Many terrorist organisations have attacked the Yazidis in the past and killed hundreds of people, but none of them were stopped or brought to account. Victims should get their dues in terms of justice. If there is no justice, crimes like this will continue to be repeated again,” she said.

On winning the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, which she shared with Denis Mukwege of Congo, Murad said it will help in the fight against violence and atrocities carried out on minorities, but there is still a lot more to be done. “The governments have heard my voice and the voices of victims like me. I visited 26 countries, but we still didn’t see an effective change on the ground. It’s a long way to go. We need to protect victims, rebuild homes, reestablish the hope and confidence of Yazidis so they can return to their homes,” she said.

Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Dr Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Hessa Bint Eisa Bu Humaid and Nadia Murad at the opening ceremony of the Investing in the Future conference in Sharjah. Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Born in the Yazidi village of Kocho, high in the Sinjar Mountains of north Iraq, Nadia was barely 21 when the Daesh extremist group overran her little hamlet in August 2014. Along with other girls in her tiny village, she was made a sex-slave and exploited by the militia.

Before being taken away, she witnessed the slaughter of her Yazidi community. Daesh killed hundreds of people in Kocho, including six of Nadia’s brothers and her mother.

According to Nadia, there are 350,000 Yazidi refugees in Iraq and out of half a million Yazidis who were in Sinjar, only 65,000 have returned. The situation in the province in northern Iraq is dire as the villages have been reduced to rubble and the majority of Yazidis continue to live in camps. Although the areas were liberated from Daesh a year ago, there has been no reconstruction. “No one knows the destiny of the 3,000 Yazidis and there are 48 mass graves that have still not been documented. Yazidis have gone through traumatic experiences and without education, there is no future for the youth,” she said.

She also brought attention to the fact that the people of Sinjar don’t have proper access to health care, despite requests in the last four years to rebuild the hospital there.

“We have many problems facing us in camps such as child marriages and this is due to the lack of education. I represent young women, who don’t have access to such a platform to say what needs to be said. I have the responsibility to translate peace and stability or future generation.”

Her survival, she said, comes with a purpose and obligation and that her organisation, Nadia’s initiative, will continue to work to help women and children who have been victimised and get her province rebuilt.

Sending a strong message to the youth, she warned them from falling into the trap of extremism and joining terrorist organisations. She also called on young volunteers to visit camps and offer help.

Not one Daesh terrorist held accountable, activist says

In her first public-speaking engagement since the release of her memoir, ‘The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity’, and ‘My Fight Against the Islamic State’, which documents her horrific experience as a captive by Daesh, Nadia Murad, the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, called upon the world to unite to help Yazidis return to their home.

Giving a keynote address in Sharjah at the ‘Investing in the Future’ conference’, which seeks to address the challenges facing youth, Nadia said, “World leaders said we need to protect minorities but the international community hasn’t helped minorities go back to their areas. The international community should not fail to reconstruct Sinjar and should hold all the perpetrators accountable for their crimes against Yazidi minorities.

“My survival case comes with a purpose and obligation which is why I have launched Nadia’s Initiative, an organisation dedicated to helping women and children who have been victimised… My initiative is trying to get support needed to get Sinjar rebuilt,” she said.

Murad voiced concern on the struggle faced by more than 3,000 Yazidi women and children, who remain in captivity.

“The world witnessed a campaign of ethnic cleansing in August 2014. Thousands of innocent people were murdered and thousands held captive where they endured unspeakable acts of violence. We lost an infinite number of people,” she said.

Speaking on her winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Nadia said this “comes with responsibility to face challenges to be an echo in speaking up against genocides. I have the responsibility to translate peace and stability for future generations. Not one Daesh terrorist was held accountable for what was perpetrated against our women.”

She added: “I represent young women, who don’t have access to such platforms to say what needs to be said. We have to work together in order to prove that genocidal campaigns will fail and lead to accountability of the perpetrators and bring justice for survivors.”

Who is Nadia Murad?

■ Nadia Murad is an Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist who lives in Germany.

■ In 2014, she was kidnapped from her hometown of Kocho and held by Daesh for three months.

■ Murad is the founder of Nadia’s Initiative, an organisation dedicated to “helping women and children victimised by genocide, mass atrocities, and human trafficking to heal and rebuild their lives and communities”.

She and Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”.

■ She is the first Iraqi to be awarded a Nobel Prize.