WASHINGTON - A 23-year-old victim of ISIS atrocities who is now a Nobel Peace Prize nominee was in Washington D.C. last month to accept the Washington Oxi Day Foundation Award for her courage in speaking out against the militant group.
Nadia Murad’s small Kurdish community in Iraq has been suffering from genocide for two years now and she wants the world to know about it.
Murad was 21 years old in secondary school with dreams of becoming a history teacher and a makeup artist. But on August 3, 2014, life as she knew it came to a screeching halt. ISIS moved in on her village of Sinjar in the northern region of Iraq.
For two weeks, they would destroy all of its temples, execute thousands of men and kidnap women and children – taking them as sex slaves. Murad was one of them.
“When they came to the Yazidis, they say that we were infidels and unbelievers,” Murad said through a translator. “They gave us a choice – to change our religion or to die. They killed the men and they took the women and the children.”
More than 6,500 women and girls were captured. Shrines and temples of the Yazidi faith were destroyed.
In one day, Murad’s mother and six of her nine brothers were executed.
“I did not think I would be able to escape,” she told us.
She didn't. Murad was taken by ISIS fighters to Mosul where she became a slave.
“They use girls for sex, enslavement and they traded them, they sold them, they did whatever they wanted to do with them,” Murad said.
Girls as young as 9 years old were exchanged as sex gifts. They were raped and tortured and even used as human shields. The young boys are brainwashed and trained to become ISIS fighters.
Murad tried to escape once and was beaten. Then, a second time.
“It was not easy for any of us to escape because ISIS was everywhere,” she said.
But a family helped her get to safety and got her medical attention. With the assistance of Yazda, a non-profit group that helps Yazidi survivors, Murad is now boldly telling her story even though it may be nearly impossible to bring her tormentors to justice.
In December 2015, she testified before the United Nations Security Council, begging world leaders to listen to the horrors of the ongoing genocide.
She also caught the ear of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who spoke out this past September when Murad was appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.
“She was forced to pray, forced to dress up and put makeup on in preparation for rape,” Clooney said. “And one night, brutally abused by a group of men, two at a time, until she was unconscious.”
Clooney has now taken Murad’s case to help her try to seek justice.
“Amal's undertake of this case has given us a lot of hope,” the ISIS survivor said. “It is very important for us that ISIS, after committing all these crimes, is brought to justice.”
Murad has lost her family, her community along with life as she knew it. After listening to her explain her tragic story, it is clear this is a woman who has been through hell. But she is strong, stoic and is resolved in her fight against the genocide of her people.
“It is something that I feel obligated to do, to speak against this, because we have to stop the terrorism,” said Murad. “We need the American people to stand with us. Our people are suffering.”
The 23-year-old now lives in Germany, but continues to receive death threats from ISIS. Her 18-year-old niece is still being held captive by ISIS.
As of today, ISIS is believed to be holding an estimated 3,400 people.
Earlier this week, Murad was named one of Glamour’s Women of the Year.