Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad

The immense courage of Nadia Murad has become a symbol for the Yazidi people, and for all women who have fallen victim to violence. In 2014, she was kidnapped by the so-called Islamic State and enslaved for three months in Iraq. The militants were carrying out a brutal campaign to exterminate the minority population.

Despite falling victim to unspeakable violence, Nadia refused to give up, and now she speaks against every form of violence from her adopted home in Germany.

She met Pope Francis in 2018, and gifted him with a signed copy of her autobiography “The Last Girl”. The Pope recently told journalists on the return flight from Iraq that it touched him deeply.

In the following interview with Vatican Media, Nadia Murad speaks about the fruits she hopes to see from the Pope’s visit to Iraq. She also launches a heartfelt appeal to the international community to help free the many Yazidi women who are still in the jihadists’ hands.

Q: The media worldwide have unanimously described Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq as historic. In your opinion, what remains in the hearts of the Iraqi people from this journey?

Not only is Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq historic in itself, but it also comes at a historic time for the Iraqi people, as they rebuild from genocide, religious persecution, and decades of conflict. The Pope’s visit shone a light on the potential for peace and religious freedom. It symbolized that all Iraqis – no matter their faith – are equally deserving of dignity and human rights. His Holiness also sent a clear message that restoring the interfaith fabric of Iraqi society must start with support for the healing of minority communities, like the Yazidis, who have been the target of violence and marginalization.

Q: Speaking to reporters on the plane, Pope Francis said that one of the reasons he visited Iraq was after reading your book “The Last Girl.” In his first speech, which he addressed to the country’s authorities, he recalled the suffering of the Yazidis. How important is it to have the Pope offering this advocacy for you?

During my audience with Pope Francis back in 2018, we had an in-depth discussion about the Yazidi community’s experience of genocide, particularly the violence endured by women and children. I am glad that my story stayed with him and that he felt called to bring this message to Iraq. His advocacy for the Yazidi cause is an example for other religious leaders in the region to amplify the message of tolerance of religious minorities like the Yazidis.

Q: Today you are a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, and you have founded Nadia’s Initiative, an organization to help women victims of violence. Where did you find the strength to turn all the pain you have suffered into this force for good?

All Yazidis have shown great strength in their survival and resilience. The entire community has withstood immense trauma. We will not be able to recover and rebuild our lives on our own. The community is in dire need of support and resources. Nadia’s Initiative is striving to empower the community in their recovery by providing tangible and sustainable support.

Q: ISIS lost the war in 2017 but you remind us that there are still thousands of women, even young girls, in slavery who have not yet been freed. Why can’t this tragedy be ended and what should the international community do?

The fact that 2,800 Yazidi women and children remain missing in captivity after nearly seven years exposes the lack of political will to protect women’s basic human rights and safety. It shows that sexual violence and slavery are not taken seriously by the international community. A multilateral task force must be established immediately with the sole purpose of locating and rescuing these women and children.

To them, I say, “It is not your fault.” Global patriarchal systems have been designed to subjugate us, profit from our oppression, and wage war on our bodies. But surviving and fighting for recognition of these injustices is an act of resistance. I would also say, “You are not alone.” Over one-third of women around the globe experience sexual violence. That does not mean we must accept it. There are women in every community who are surviving, standing up, and speaking out. When we unite to fight for our rights, change will be unstoppable.