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Nobel Peace Prize Winner Advocates for Yazidi People

Nadia Murad is not giving up.


It might seem sensible, she told a Creighton University audience Monday night, for the Yazidi people of northern Iraq to accept their fate as victims of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria who, beginning in 2014, visited genocidal violence against her people and their ancient faith.

People might say the best option, after seeing brothers and fathers murdered and mothers and sisters captured into slavery, would be to begin life anew elsewhere, she said. But that, Murad said, would grant ISIS a victory. “When ISIS came, they came to eradicate Yazidis from that region, they came to dehumanize us and to say that ‘you will not be able to exist here,’” she said.

“That’s why we are fighting, because we want to ensure that the ISIS goal does not get accomplished. We want to make sure that we are able to maintain our homeland, our culture, our religion.”

Murad addressed a full house in the Harper Center Ahmanson Ballroom as part of her ongoing effort to build global awareness about the plight of the Yazidis in the wake of ISIS terror and to encourage the world to assist those who wish to return home and rebuild their society.

The Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, president of Creighton University, in introducing Murad, told part of her story, a story that has captured the attention of world leaders, including Pope Francis. Her creation of Nadia’s Initiative, which advocates for victims of sexual violence and seeks to draw attention to the plight of the Yazidis, resulted in her being awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

“On Aug. 15 of 2014, at the age of 19, Nadia was captured by ISIS troops during a raid on her village,” Fr. Hendrickson said.

“More than 600 Yazidi men were murdered, including six of Nadia’s brothers and stepbrothers. Some 500 women were captured and condemned to slavery and sexual abuse. Three months later, Nadia escaped and made her way to a refugee camp and from there to Germany, where she now resides.”

The Yazidi people of northern Iraq, an ethno-religious minority that practice a religion distinct from both Islam and Christianity, have been scattered around their region and the world in light of ISIS persecution, Murad said, and she urged the nations of the world to help them reclaim their rural, farming culture.

About 100,000 have already done so, she said, although that is far short of the estimated 500,000 Yazidis who lived in the region prior to the arrival of ISIS terrorists.

“They are slowly starting to rebuild their lives but they need help rebuilding their houses, and so we advocate for them to be able to have the services they need so that they can leave the refugee camps and go back to their homeland and live their lives again,” she said.

Murad called particularly on the government of Iraq, now that ISIS has been ejected from its territory, to make greater efforts to help its Yazidi citizens recover.

“I hope that we can mobilize good against evil,” she said.

Murad’s appearance was sponsored by Creighton’s Global Scholars Program, a four-year educational and professional development program designed to immerse select students in a variety of cultures for a rich academic, social and service experience

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