Today, just two years after Yazidi teenager Nadia Murad Basel Taha was kidnapped and taken as a sex slave by the Islamic State, she appeared at the United Nations in New York to become a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
Murad officially received the title of UN Office of Drugs and Crime Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who called Murad “a fierce and tireless advocate for the Yazidi people and victims of human trafficking everywhere.”
The head of the UNODC, Simone Monasebian, noted that Ban had “dropped everything” to meet personally with Murad and encouraged her to come speak to the UN Security Council in December, 2015.
Nadia Murad, survivor of the Yazidi genocide, was just named UN Goodwill Ambassador pic.twitter.com/13HPT5VcbP— Teymour (@Teymour_Ashkan) September 16, 2016
Murad appeared with her attorney, Amal Clooney, who has been fighting with Murad to have the Islamic State investigated and prosecuted for genocide against the Yazidi people in the International Criminal Court.
“I stand with you today to represent those who have gone from us,” Murad told an array of ambassadors, dignitaries, and advocates. “We cannot bring them back. With them in mind always, we fight on. We have to continue fighting.”
Murad shared the story of the day in August, 2014, when Islamic State fighters arrived in her village near Sinjar Mountain in Iraq, killing hundreds of Yazidi men and kidnapping thousands of women and children. Murad’s six brothers were killed in front of her and she was taken by ISIS to Mosul, Iraq.
“I was absolutely petrified,” she said. “When I looked up I saw a huge man, he was like a monster, and I cried out and said, 'I’m too young, and you’re huge,' and he hit me, and kicked me, and beat me.”
“Days later, that terrible night, he did it. He forced me to serve as a part of his military faction, and he humiliated me everyday,” she said. “Daesh came to kidnap, murder, and rape. This was genocide. It was that simple.”
Murad managed to escape ISIS captivity after three months. Since her escape, she has been pushing for the international community to intervene to rescue the 3,200 Yazidi women and children who remain captured, and to collect evidence of the genocide to bring to the ICC for prosecution of ISIS fighters.
Clooney, who sat beside Murad, hugging her and patting her shoulder as she spoke, laid out the evidence of genocide committed by the Islamic State. She said that ISIS studied the Yazidi culture for months ahead of their attack to determine what, exactly, to do to them, she said.
Clooney quoted from an ISIS pamphlet explaining to supporters that they could take Yazidi women as slaves, they could beat them and have sex with them, and they could sell them, buy them, or gift them, because there were merely property. Yazidi women had been sold for as little as $20 on markets, including on Facebook, Clooney said.
“This is the first time I’ve spoken in this chamber,” Clooney said. “I wish I could say I was proud to be here, but I am ashamed.”
“I am ashamed that there is no justice being done and barely a complaint being made about it. I am ashamed as a woman that girls like Nadia can be sold. I am ashamed that we ignore their cries for help,” she said to applause.
Ban also called for the immediate release of those who continue to be held captive, and said that “the crimes committed by ISIS against the Yazidis may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even genocide.”
In her first speech as Ambassador Murad, the “fierce” advocate for the Yazidi community called on the UN to take action immediately to rescue those who remain captive and to begin the process of seeking justice.
“I have come to the UN before and I keep hoping that the UN can do something to help,” she said. “I call upon the Security Council to send investigators to collect evidence of crimes perpetrated by ISIS, so that one day we can look our abusers in the eye before a court in the Hague and tell the world what they have done to us so our community can heal, and so that I can be the last girl who comes before you with such a story.”
Murad received a standing ovation and applause, and dozens of ambassadors thanked her for her advocacy, promising to concentrate their efforts on human trafficking in the future.