IWD: Nobel laureate Nadia Murad reveals her murdered mother is her ‘greatest inspiration’

Activist vows to continue campaign for justice against ISIS perpetrators of Yazidi genocide and atrocities

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Seven years ago, Nadia Murad’s tranquil rural community was ripped apart by ISIS when the terrorists massacred thousands of Yazidi men and older women, taking boys to train as child soldiers and girls as sex slaves.

In its genocide of the Yazidis, ISIS murdered Ms Murad's mother and six of her brothers in Kocho, in northern Iraq’s Sinjar region, in 2014. Her ordeal did not end there - she was imprisoned and subjected to months of torture and rape until one night she managed to escape.

Now 27, Ms Murad is the global face of the Yazidi community and relentlessly campaigns to raise awareness of the atrocities committed against her people, and the thousands still missing.

Her work led to her becoming a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in 2016 and she was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

Nadia Murad Basee Taha at her visit to the refuge camp of Idomeni in Greece. Idomeni, Greece - 3 April 2016  The well known Yezidi activist who managed to escape from ISIS wants to become "the voice" of refugees in Europe. She sent a clear message to refugees at Idomeni to accept to be transferred at accommodation centers in order to be safe as the borders will likely remain closed, think that didn't like a lot of different refugee groups. Some people said that she was trying to make them follow the EU - Turkey deal that drive a lot of them back in the Turkish coasts.
(Photo by Joseph Galanakis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Nadia Murad visits the refuge camp of Idomeni in Greece. Getty

To mark International Women's Day, Ms Murad told The National that her mother, Samme Salih Amman, has been her greatest inspiration.

A large photograph of Samme hangs above her bed and the woman taken far too early from the family of 10 children is never far from her thoughts.

Her mother is still among thousands of missing victims, and Ms Murad, who was given refugee status in Germany, continues the agonising wait to receive confirmation that her remains have been found among hundreds of loved ones discovered in one of the first mass graves.

"Growing up, my mother was my greatest inspiration," she told The National.

“The lessons I learned from her continue to guide me. She was a strong and independent woman.

“I think she would be proud to see how survivors are continuing to speak out against the injustices our community endured and demand accountability.”

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 08: Nadia Murad, a 24-year-old Yazidi woman and co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, speaks at the National Press Club on October 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. Murad is the founder of Nadia's Initiative, a foundation "supporting women and minorities through the redevelopment and stabilization of communities in crisis." (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Iraqi Yazidi survivor of ISIS Nadia Murad has called for better safeguards of religious freedom in Iraq. Getty 

Wearing a white headscarf, resting in Ms Murad’s lap, Samme’s last words to her daughter were: “I am going to die.”

ISIS militants then wrenched them apart. It was last time she saw her.

Ms Murad then endured three months of captivity, being tortured and raped before running for her life through an unlocked door.

She is now the voice of her people but hopes that she will be the “last girl in the world” with a story like hers.

“One of the biggest challenges that arose when I started my advocacy work was that most people were not aware of my community and what happened to us,” she said.

“For a period of time, the Yazidi genocide made headlines, until the media and international community moved on to the next crisis. But comprehensive justice and rehabilitation require the sustained political will of many actors.

OSLO, NORWAY - DECEMBER 10:  Co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Nadia Murad gives her lecture after accepting her award during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony 2018 at Oslo City Town Hall on December 10, 2018 in Oslo, Norway. The Congolese gynaecologist, Denis Mukwege, who has treated thousands of rape victims, and Nadia Murad, the Iraqi Yazidi, who was sold into sex slavery by Isis, have been jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel peace prize in recognition for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon in war.  (Photo by Erik Valestrand/Getty Images)
Co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Nadia Murad gives her lecture after accepting her award. (Photo by Erik Valestrand/Getty Images)

“Education is absolutely critical for raising awareness that the genocide did not end with ISIS’s territorial defeat. The poverty, displacement and trauma are ongoing for my community.”

Through Nadia's Initiative, her campaign group, she helped create the UN’s ISIS war crimes investigation team (UNITAD) to bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice.

UNITAD is hoping to begin the first prosecutions this year using evidence uncovered in the mass graves.

Last week, Ms Murad's work led to the passage of Iraq’s Yazidi Female Survivors Law, which aims to provide assistance and rehabilitation to ISIS survivors.

“Important first steps have been taken in the areas of security, governance and justice with the announcement of the Sinjar Agreement back in October 2020 and the passage of the Yazidi Female Survivors Law,” she said.

"However, time will tell if these promises are brought to fruition through effective and sustainable implementation.
"My team and I advocated for these steps and other legislation, but real change is not made when laws are passed - it is made when they are implemented.

"We will continue to encourage the local authorities and international community to implement these measures in a way that advances meaningful justice for survivors."
Last month, Ms Murad finally buried two of her brothers, Masud, 35, and Basee, 37, after their remains were found among the first 100 to be identified from a mass grave.

Although she longs for the moment when she is finally able to bury her mother with dignity, and the 3,000 other missing Yazidis are found, she says that such a day is “not guaranteed to come”.

“Exhumations and prosecutions have been deferred for almost seven years,” she said.

“The anguish over not being able to bury our loved ones and not seeing ISIS criminals held accountable is a burden that weighs heavily on the Yazidi community.

“Burials and prosecutions will provide some closure, but we will never be able to forget what ISIS did to us.

“I hope that it will enable healing, but these steps must also be coupled with tangible support, so the community can live with dignity and safeguard against future persecution.”

She has pledged to continue telling her story, which she describes as her “best weapon” against terrorism, until the perpetrators of the genocide are put on trial.