Former ISIS sex slave calls on US Congress for justice
“Please bring your powers to help, to heal, to solve...share our tears. Our crisis is your crisis."
An escaped sex slave of ISIS who’s become a global activist brought the brutality of the terror organization’s actions to members of the US Senate.
Nadia Murad Buress was one of thousands of Yazidi women kidnapped and put into sexual slavery by ISIS. After three months she escaped her brutalizers with the help of a Muslim family in Iraq. She escaped to a world where her small religious minority in Iraq had been decimated.
Thousands were killed just in the first few days of the attacks by ISIS. An estimated 80 percent of her people are displaced without even “the joy of having a tent to live in,” according to Nadia’s testimony to the US Congress.
This tragedy went largely unnoticed by the wider world. This is when Nadia went from a survivor to an activist. A young woman who had once simply “dreamed of opening a beauty salon” became an international voice for Yazidis and other religious minorities under threat from ISIS. A global tour telling her story and calling for ISIS to be stopped has put her in front of the UN Security Council, countless heads of state, and most recently in front of the US Congress.
Earlier this year, US Secretary of State John Kerry took the important step of labelling ISIS’ actions as “genocide.” Since then little to no action has been taken by the US. To keep momentum, Nadia took her story to the US Congress.
Yesterday, she shared her story, her dreams, and her call for justice with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Here are just a few of the powerful moments from the hearings. (A full transcript of her written testimony is at the bottom of this piece)
1) Connecting to the US experience of tragedy
“The first thing I would like to tell you is that I was heartbroken when I witnessed the crimes committed in Orlando. Because for the same reason — for no reason — these were committed and people were abused the same way that I was. But I was not surprised by this, because I knew that if ISIS was not stopped then they would deliver their crimes everywhere.”
Nadia opened her testimony sharing her emotional response to the tragic shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead. Her visibly emotional response connected the tragedy to the larger struggle against extremism, hate and violence that she has so personally witnessed.
2) Nadia tells her story
Nadia then told her story of abduction and forced sexual servitude, a story she previously shared with Global Citizen in moving detail.
3) It was genocide
“What happened to the Yazidi people was genocide. Just the first day, thousands were killed.” It led to the “displacement of about 80% of the Yazidi people who do not have even the joy of a tent to live in.”
The genocide label is more than rhetoric. Genocide is a war crime punishable in the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is a key element of Nadia’s global campaign to bring ISIS to justice.
4) The call for justice
“I was freed but I do not enjoy the feeling of the freedom because those who have committed those crimes have not been held accountable.”
Despite the label of genocide being used by global leaders like the United States, so far no nation has agreed to refer the actions taken against the Yazidi to the ICC.
5) A safe zone
“The Yazidis and all other religious minorities, they are unable to protect themselves in Iraq and Syria. If a country as strong as your country cannot protect its citizens in Orlando or in Belgium or in France how can a small minority like us protect ourselves when we are in the heart of where the radicals are.”
Nadia has repeatedly called for a safe zone to be established in Iraq and Syria where religious minorities can be protected from ISIS.
“We are only seeking peace. We want to live in dignity wherever we are.”
This proposal has been rejected by US President Obama.
6) An important reminder about tolerance
“I am not saying these crimes are about religion. ISIS is using religion to commit these crimes… I don’t like anyone to be attacking an entire religion, for example the family that liberated me was Muslim. But at the same time this crime was committed under the name of Islam.”
This statement is a powerful reminder that ISIS is not representative of the religion of Islam. Twisting a religion to suit evil intentions should not color global perspective of a religion practiced by over 1.6 billion people. Nadia’s campaign is against ISIS not Islam.
7) A special call for Muslims to take a stand
“Racism should not be practiced against Islam. But these crimes have been committed under the name of Islam and the Muslim [people] must be the first one to resist this.”
Reminding the world to be tolerant of Islam, Nadia still puts pressure on people in predominantly Muslim nations, particularly those in the Middle East and North Africa region, to resist ISIS.
8) Nadia’s call to the Arab world
(Note: Da’esh is the Arabic name for ISIS)
Da’esh will not give up their weapons unless we force them to give up their weapons. Before all, Arab countries must stop the flow of their citizens to Da’esh and prevent them from joining Da’esh. And we have to prevent the supply of money and weapons to them. And prevent that their oil must not be sold. And then we have to fight them militarily after that.
Nadia specifically highlighted shows of support for her and the Yazidi in Egypt and Kuwait. Yet stated this support has translated to little action or even official condemnation from leaders.
9) A reminder of who this struggle is for: the future
When I was a little girl I had a dream to open a beauty salon. I was prevented from this dream. And that is the exact same story of thousands of children… Over 1,00 children were taken to be subjected to ISIL brainwashing and terrorist ideology.
Nadia’s testimony was moving. Members of the US Congress expressed their support, compassion and horror at her story and the plight of the Yazidis.
In her written testimony she called for US action to work with their allies to bring ISIS to justice for their crimes. And she issued a powerful call for unity with the American people:
Please bring your powers to help, to heal, to solve.
Come share our tears.
Our crisis is your crisis.
To see an excerpt of Nadia’s testimony, go HERE.
Nadia’s full written testimony is here: