On June 28, 2019, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), in partnership with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, hosted Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad, a leading advocate for survivors of genocide and sexual violence. At this event, Nadia Murad discussed the condition of Yazidi people and the reconstruction efforts in Sinjar, Iraq. Sarhang Hamasaeed, Director of the Middle East Programs at the USIP, acted as a moderator whereas Abid Shamden, Director of the Nadia’s Initiative translated on behalf of Nadia Murad.
Mr. Hamasaeed asked what Nadia’s Initiative seeks to accomplish and what challenges Yazidi people face as they try to recover from ISIS. Nadia explained that the biggest challenge for the Yazidi people is the current security situation. 80,000 Yazidi people have returned to their homeland of Sinjar in Northern Iraq, which was once occupied by the ISIS in 2014. The Yazidis in refugee camps do not feel safe returning to Sinjar as they feel that the people who have returned have still not received the support and services they need. 350,000 Yazidis remain displaced, which is the majority of the community. Nadia explained that even though five years have passed by, Yazidis who are living in refugee camps two hours away from home still cannot return to their homeland. Lack of security and services prevent people from returning home. Even in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps, there is a lack of proper education and health services. She further stated that since 2014, 95,000 Yazidis have already emigrated from Iraq. Her organization, Nadia’s Initiative, is working with the Iraqi and Kurdish government to establish a local government in Sinjar. Even after the liberation of the ISIS-held areas, Nadia’s Initiative has not received permission from the Iraqi government to search for the missing children.
Mr. Hamasaeed asked Nadia what the best way to hold former European ISIS fighters accountable was. Nadia explained that she and her organization is working with Germany, France, and the UK to bring justice to the victims. Yazidis are ready to testify against ISIS fighters and their organization’s lawyer, Amal Clooney, has been very helpful in this respect. When asked about the need for a hospital in Sinjar and political representation of Yazidis, Nadia stated that there is a need for a bigger hospital after the destruction of a small hospital by ISIS. In terms of political representation, Yazidis still do not have a mayor who is from their ethnicity. She also proposed that the Iraqi government should recruit more Yazidis so that they can leave militias and join the official Iraqi security forces. Mr. Hamasaeed asked how the decision was made to allow women survivors of ISIS sexual slavery to bring children born of sexual violence. Nadia explained that this was a challenge for the Yazidi community, but spiritual leaders of the Yazidis welcomed them. Another cause for concern was that the Iraqi government wanted to register these children as Muslims. In addition, Nadia expressed her fears that the Yazidis might disappear if the international community fails to act. She noticed a positive change as the region has been de-mined with the help of the United States, French, and the British governments. As a UN goodwill ambassador, Nadia spoke at the Ministerial to Advance Religious freedom organized by the United States government last year. For this year’s Ministerial, Nadia hopes the international community would protect religious minorities and help them return home. Nadia’s Initiative implements projects through its partner organizations and will rebuild a hospital in Sinjar through its partner.
This blog post was contributed by Abhi Slathia, who is currently an intern at HasNa Inc.