Former Yazidi sex slave fears plea for help ignored by world

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 10 March 2017 19:22 GMT

Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad poses for a portrait with international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney at United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S., March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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"It is very hard to come here every time, and nothing tangible takes place"

(Fixes typo in headline)

By Ellen Wulfhorst

UNITED NATIONS, March 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An Iraqi Yazidi woman held as a sex slave by Islamic State militants says her advocacy for other victims has left her completely exhausted and frustrated that her captors have not faced justice.

Nadia Murad and her attorney Amal Clooney appeared at a United Nations event on Thursday to ask that the crimes of Islamic State militants be investigated and prosecuted, and they criticized the international body for inaction.

Murad, who turned 24 on Friday, was among thousands of women and girls abducted, tortured and sexually abused by militant fighters in northwest Iraq in 2014.

She first spoke before the U.N. Security Council in 2015 and has become an advocate for the Yazidi, speaking to governments and appealing to the international community to act.

"It is very hard to come here every time, and nothing tangible takes place," Murad told the Thomson Reuters Foundation after her appearance at the United Nations. "It's very hard for the victims as well to hear there is no progress."

Murad said she was abducted from her village in Iraq and taken to the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. She was tortured and repeatedly raped before she escaped three months later.

The Yazidi, a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of ancient Middle Eastern religions, are regarded by Islamic State as devil-worshippers.

In her speech at the U.N. event on accountability for crimes committed by Islamic State, the slight, soft-spoken Murad said: "I am physically and emotionally exhausted.... I have put my personal life aside to seek justice, rather than focusing on my own healing."

Six of Murad's family members, including a toddler not yet 3 years old, remain captives of Islamic State, and her sister-in-law escaped after nearly 30 months.

Murad said her advocacy has put others in her family in danger.

"I wish I could say this was worth it," Murad said in her speech through a translator. "My words, tears and my testimony have not made you act. I wonder whether there is any point in continuing my campaign at all."

Breaking into tearful English, she continued: "I cannot understand what is taking so long. I cannot understand why you are letting ISIS get away with it or what more you need to hear before you will act."

Clooney, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London who represents Yazidi women victimized in Iraq, has asked the United Nations to investigate Islamic State crimes, preferably with the cooperation of the Iraqi government.

The government of Iraq has voiced support for such an investigation but has taken no action that would trigger a U.N. response.

Clooney also wants the Islamist group brought before the International Criminal Court.

"Nadia speaks for all the Yazidis when she says how exasperated she feels," Clooney told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Victims like Nadia can't expect to wait forever."

According to the United Nations, the militants enslaved about 7,000 women and girls in 2014, mainly Yazidis, and is still holding 3,500, some as sex slaves.

Murad now lives in Germany, which has taken in some 1,000 Iraqi sexual assault victims, according to Clooney, who is married to actor George Clooney. (Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Astrid Zweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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