Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman who escaped a gruesome ordeal after she was kidnapped by ISIS to be a sex slave like thousands of other women from her minority ethnic group, tells Al Arabiya News Channel in an interview aired Friday that her people “want a stronger stand from Muslims against” the militant group.
“ISIS says that they represent Muslims, but Muslims must give a stronger stand against such claim,” she said, explaining that ISIS does not represent Islam.
Murad explained that such “stand” would deter “people as young as 12” from joining ISIS.
Yazidis, who practice an ancient religion, are considered “devil worshippers” by ISIS supporters.
The 22-year-old became an international icon for the plight of the Yazidi people after she begged the UN Security Council in late 2015 to help with the tragic fallout when ISIS militants seized the Yazidis’ territories in northern Iraq, kidnapping more than 5,000 women, including herself.
Kidnapped by ISIS in August 2014, Murad risked execution when she escaped after three months.
After her escape, she turned into an activist, visiting different countries in the region to raise awareness over ISIS atrocities and garner further support to help other Yazidi women under ISIS captivity.
“I met with many leaders, MPs and regular people,” she said. “I wanted to describe the crimes I saw committed against me and thousands of other girls.”
Asked if she was able to deliver her message in light of what some activists describe as inaction by the international community to help Yazidi women escape, she said: “I believe I did deliver the message, the rest is up to their conscious.”
Yazidis also demand that they administer their territories in Iraq away from the central government of Baghdad and the autonomous government of Kurdistan in Erbil after what they described as the two failing them.
“We do not care which side Baghdad or Erbil to take, but we need to administer our region,” she said, stating that having an international protection by the UN would be a welcomed decision and that it is their “right.”
The Yazidis are also waiting from Erbil to open a probe over why the peshmerga Kurdish forces abandoned their posts in Sinjar city where Yazidis were mostly concentrated following the ISIS offensive in August 2014.
The Yazidis also want the international community to recognize what they went through as a “genocide” committed against them, but both Baghdad and Erbil made no advances to pursue such claim.
“It is true nothing had happened after the meetings [abroad], but I was happy that they opened their doors for me, these leaders, MPs,” she said. “That was important for me because ISIS did not believe we could do this.”
So far 60 percent of Iraq’s northern city of Sinjar – where Yazidis have long lived, is liberated, said Murad but not many Yazidi families have returned.
“Some families from the northern parts returned, but we cannot return that easily because we have lost our trust,” she said. “We were not protected.”
She also dubbed the liberation of the area as “political.”
“I did not feel the liberation was done because girls like me were taken as slaves,” she said. “Many Yazidis feel it was not for us.”
After the liberation of Sinjar in November last year, different groups including Yazidis, peshmergas and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) clashed in separate incidents, highlighting political competition and lack of a coherent national strategy to fight ISIS.
On top of their abandonment by the peshmerga forces in 2014, they feel betrayed by the Arabs.
“We have Arab Muslim neighbors, whom we used to know who joined ISIS, and had their women celebrating when ISIS took us Yazidi women as slaves,” she said.
While she lamented the series of betrayals, she also recounted how a Muslim Arab family from Mosul helped her escape.
“The family man, until now I remember what he said, when he apologized that his family could not feed me better because they were poor,” she said with tears in her eyes.
Murad also gained a new view after trips to Arab states.
“When I went to Egypt and Kuwait, I realized there is a difference between ISIS and Islam,” she said. “There are Muslims who have risked with their lives to save the captive Yazidi girls,” she added, giving hope for an already divided region.SHOW MORE