The bare bones of Nadia Murad’s story is like that of many thousands of women caught in conflict zones. She was a young girl on the cusp of adulthood who dreamt of becoming a teacher or open a beauty salon. But on the night of Aug 3, 2014, the ISIS swept into her small village in Sinjar province in northern Iraq, killed her mother and six brothers, enslaved her and her sisters and took them away to be repeatedly raped by unknown men over a period of three months in Mosul, before an open door helped her escape from her tormentors. She was smuggled out of Iraq and eventually reached the safe haven of Germany.
But what made her different was her determination not to keep quiet. Like she says, she’s named her autobiography The Last Girl, because she wants to be the last girl ever to be treated the way she was. She comes from a region — very similar to ours — where the victim of rape is usually looked upon as the culprit and is often killed by the male members to save their family honour.
Nadia had made three costly mistakes for which she paid dearly. First, she was a Kurd, a people that have been asking for freedom from their tormentors for centuries but are trapped and torn asunder between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Second, she was a Yazidi, belonging to one of the oldest religions in the world. But considered devil worshippers by the majority of Sunni Muslims and persecuted. And third, she was a woman. And so easy game for any man whose fancy she caught.
Another problem the Yazidis face is that the Kurds — who are mostly Shias and Sunnis — do not recognise them as one of their own. This was most apparent on the night of August 3, 2014, when the IS overran their homes, killing and kidnapping hundreds, destroying their temples and villages, not even sparing their cemeteries. Men were lined up and shot, beheaded or burnt alive. When the IS stormed in, the Peshmerga (Kurdish military forces) quietly slipped into the darkness, leaving the Yazidis to their fate.
Coming from such a background, one would expect Nadia to opt for a life of obscurity, relieved that she was safe at last. Instead, this frail 25-year-old has relentlessly fought to be heard, to tell her story again and again, to make sure women are never ever used and exploited as commodities. With the fall of the IS, and the imminent danger of a fundamentalist Islamic caliphate receding from public consciousness, interest in them is slowly waning. As also in words like slaughter, pogrom and ethnic cleansing, which we assumed in a burst of optimism to have ended with the Nazis. Nadia won’t let this happen. She will fight till every IS rapist is brought to justice in the international courts. And in this she has the staunch support of human rights lawyers like Amal Clooney.
And now, the world’s most famous awards committee in its citation has said: “We want to send out a message of awareness that women, who constitute half of the population in most countries, actually are used as a weapon of war, and that they need protection and that the perpetrators have to be prosecuted and held responsible for their actions.” The Nobel committee added that Murad had shown “uncommon courage” in recounting her own sufferings. Closer home, the Harmony Foundation is waiting to bestow the prestigious Mother Teresa Memorial award to Nadia, who will arrive in Mumbai later this month....