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Brave ex-ISIS captive condemns Yazidi genocide

24 August 2016

Former ISIS captive and Yazidi spokesperson Nadia Murad delivered a powerful speech on campus, calling for justice and action over the terrorist group's mass violence against women and children.

Nadia Murad, who escaped from ISIS and secured a Nobel Peace Prize nomination, delivered a powerful address at the University of Sydney in August 2016, two years after a mass killing Yazidi people.

Nadia Murad fled from ISIS and secured a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for condemning genocide. Ms Murad gave a powerful speech at the University of Sydney in August 2016, two years after a mass killing of Yazidi people, in north Iraq. Image: University of Sydney

In a public address co-hosted by the Department of Modern Greek and Byzantine Studies, non-profit organisation Yazda, and the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Nadia Murad said ISIS must be held accountable for their slaughter of Yazidi men, women and children.

The Yazidis are one of Iraq’s oldest minorities and are primarily based in the Mount Sinjar region, close to the Syrian border.

“I am speaking about the heinous crimes of ISIS which include the merciless killing and kidnapping of women and the forceful displacement of entire communities,” said Ms Murad, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

“For nine months I have been speaking about a genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. But nothing has changed and Daesh (ISIS) retains control over large areas of Iraq and Syria, as well as having considerable footprints in Yemen, Libya, Sudan and North and Central Africa,” she said.

Who are the Yazidis and why is ISIS persecuting them?

Ms Murad is in Australia with Yazda, a non-proft organisation which highlights the plight of an estimated population of 600,000 Yazidis.

“Today, Daesh (ISIS) continues to hold more than 3500 Yazidi women and children and we don’t know anything about them, except that the women are used as sex slaves and that the children are being trained to be used in fighting forces and as human shields on the battlefield.

“We don’t know who is alive and who is dead,” she said.

Ms Murad is from Kocho, a Yazidi village in Sinjar, Iraq, where IS massacred all the men and enslaved the women and children in August 2014.

Terrorists sexually enslaved Ms Murad and murdered six of her brothers and her mother.

“ISIS attacks our areas with the complete intention to eradicate us. They consider us as infidels because our faith is different to theirs.”

We don't know who is alive and who is dead.
Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize nominee

Ahmed Khudida, Yazda’s Deputy Director, said the organisation is providing humanitarian support and working with the Australian government to attempt to secure asylum for Yazidis displaced following the violence of August 2014.

“We still have more than 3500 women and girls in ISIS captivity and they are facing sexual, psychological and physical abuse every day. More than 1200 children remain in ISIS training camps being used as the next generation of terrorism. Some 90 percent of our community has been living in appalling conditions for the last two years. Our homeland has been destroyed,” he said.

Can genocides be prevented?

The event also featured newly released research from The University’s Atrocity Forecasting Project, which lists Iraq as the third leading genocide risk globally, behind South Sudan and Sudan.

“It [was] humbling to be here involved in this event, along with Nadia Murad and Yazda. In the world of social science and the world I live in it is an established fact that genocide is being committed in Iraq against the Yazidis,” said Associate Professor Ben Goldsmith, the Atrocity Forecasting Project’s Chief Investigator.

“Since the Nazi Holocaust in World War Two, the Cambodian genocide, the Rwandan genocide, and now the genocide committed by ISIS along with many other atrocities, people have said ‘never again’. Our work at the Atrocity Forecasting Project is really about how to make that happen and how to make that a reality in our lifetime.

“It’s never too late to make things better, but once genocides have started it is astoundingly difficult thing to stop them, as we can see in Iraq,” he added.

Nikki Marczak of the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies said the perpetrators of the August 2014 massacre must face justice.

“It is not enough that human rights organisations, governments around the world, and indeed the United Nations have acknowledged ISIS’s crimes against Yazidis as genocide. This recognition must translate to international action to protect Yazidis and hold perpetrators of genocide accountable,” she said.