Nadia Murad addressing the UN Security Council in December 2015, imploring for the attack against the Yazidi people to be recognised as genocide.
Nadia Murad addressing the UN Security Council in December 2015, imploring for the attack against the Yazidi people to be recognised as genocide.

From ISIS slave to U.N ambassador: who is Nadia Murad?

FLANKED by a translator and one of Australia's foremost experts on genocide, Nadia Murad sat still and quiet before a Brisbane audience earlier this week to tell a story that has shocked the world.

The former ISIS slave has travelled across 20 countries in the past five months to share the events that tore her from her village in northern Iraq and put her on the world stage.

She told her story before the U.N Security Council in December. She told it to Malcolm Turnbull earlier this week.

Soon she will tell it again before the U.N General Assembly.

Her whirlwind Australian visit is part of a global campaign that has seen her nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

On Wednesday, in one of just two lectures in Australia, Nadia told a Brisbane audience how her family were murdered, forcibly converted or, in her own case, taken to be sold and traded as a slave.

So who is Nadia Murad Basee?

Nadia is one of the Yazidi people, a religion primarily practised in Iraq and Syria. In August 2014, Nadia's village and other Yazidi villages like it across northern Iraq were attacked by ISIS forces. Most of the men and older women were executed. Children were taken to ISIS training camps.

Nadia's mother was murdered and her body dumped into a mass grave. Her nephew was taken hostage and sent to an ISIS training camp where he was forced to convert to Islam. More than a dozen other members of her family were either murdered or are missing. Nadia herself, then aged 21, was taken to the city of Mosul to become a slave.

She was raped and assaulted regularly. She said photographs of women, and sometimes their children, were distributed like catalogues.

Three months later Nadia escaped, paying a smuggler to help get her out of ISIS territory. She settled in Germany as a refugee.

Since then, with the help of global not-for-profit group Yazda, she has been travelling the world campaigning to have the events of August 2014 recognised as a genocide against the Yazidi people.

What brought her to Australia?

Nadia's Brisbane lecture was hosted by the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. The centre, based at the University of Queensland, has thrown its support behind Yazda and called for the attacks by ISIS to be recognised as genocide.

Professor Alex Bellamy spoke on the night and paid homage to Nadia as a brave woman.

"I think most Australians would have some sense of the plight of Yazidis, compared to other places such as South Sudan, but probably don't have a comprehension of the sheer scale and depth of their suffering and the fact that a whole people has been either killed or forced to flee their homes," he told APN.

"Nor do I think they would have a good sense of the scale of the sexual and gender-based violence and practises of sexual slavery."

Nadia's visits to Brisbane and other countries across the world are part of a larger campaign by Yazda, whose deputy executive director Ahmed Khudida Burjus translated for Nadia.

"We are a small community and we are facing extinction," Ahmed told the audience.

There is no doubt of Nadia's bravery. She spoke stoically, in her own language and in sparse detail, to the Brisbane audience.

She bowed her head only when Ahmed gave his own presentation detailing the mass graves found in Nadia's village. He said more than 700 people from her village, which was home to less than 2000 people, were murdered.

Photos of Nadia's family flashed across a screen. Ahmed pointed to her mother, and described the discovery of her body in a mass grave.

He said Nadia's nephew, taken to an ISIS training school, had since converted to Islam and labelled his family as infidels.

Ahmed said Yazda was now working with the Australian government to settle 500 Syrian-Yazidi refugees in the country.

He called on Australian people to get behind a campaign for genocide recognition, and for the U.N Security Council to refer the crimes to the International Criminal Court. 

What next?

Nadia will address the U.N general assembly next month and will take on the role of U.N goodwill ambassador later this year.

She is an official nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, first nominated by the Iraq government, and will find out in coming months if she will receive the prize.

Both Nadia and the Yazda organisation are represented by high-profile human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
In Australia, organisations such as R2P plan to support their bid for genocide recognition.

"We will be working with Yazda to press for recognition of the Genocide, the referral of the situation to the ICC, and strengthening of measures to protect refugees and displaced Yazidis," Professor Bellamy said.

"We will also raise funds to support scholarships to enable Yazidi survivors to come to Australia to study. We will also continue to work with Nadia and her team and will support her future work in Australia and the region."

The Australian government has already recognised ISIS attacks against the Assyrian people in Iraq as a genocide. 



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