Nadia Murad before she visited Yad Vashem..
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Nadia Murad, a survivor of the Yazidi genocide who won the Nobel Prize, will use the money to help build a hospital in Sinjar, an area of Iraq severely damaged by Islamic State. Murad has vowed to support efforts to rebuild Sinjar and Yazidi villages that still lie in ruins three years after they were liberated from ISIS.
Speaking in Sinjar on Friday, Murad said she would use the prize money from her recent Nobel Prize award to help build a hospital in the city. She said the hospital should serve the ill and those who were raped by ISIS. In August 2014 ISIS attacked the Yazidi minority of Iraq, systematically murdering more than 3,000 men and elderly women, and selling women and children into slavery. More than 3,000 women are still missing. Thousands were rescued, like Murad, who was able to escape ISIS. Although some of the survivors have received support in places like Germany, many women who survived brutal rape and slavery still suffer from lack of basic care. In addition, around 400,000 Yazidis still are displaced from their areas in northern Iraq, many of them living in internally displaced person (IDP) camps in the Kurdistan region. On Saturday a road was opened linking Dohuk and Sinjar.
Although some Yazidis areas were liberated in the fall of 2015, many people were unable to return. In October 2017, Iraqi security forces and a group of Shi’ite militias clashed with Kurdish Peshmerga as Iraq’s federal government took Sinjar from the Kurdish forces who had helped liberate it. Since then the Suhela road was closed. The tens of thousands of people living in Sinjar lack basic services, including hospitals and clinics. Many complain that the government has invested in Mosul while they fear going there. Mosul was where many Yazidis were sold into slavery or taken before being sent to Syria. Turkey has also launched airstrikes on Yazidi areas of Sinjar, claiming that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has outposts there. The PKK and its People’s Protection Units (YPG) allies in Syria helped save tens of thousands of Yazidis in 2014 when ISIS attacked, shielding them and helping them flee to Syria before they returned to Iraq.
Murad has campaigned for support for rebuilding of Sinjar. She met Iraq’s President Barham Salih last week and then met with Kurdish officials Masrour Barzani and Nechirvan Barzani. Salih said: “We must work relentlessly to free Yazidi women remaining in ISIS captivity, reconstruct Sinjar.” The Kurdish officials also vowed to support Yazidis. On Friday Yazidis, celebrated a holiday in northern Iraq. Murad travelled to the Doha Forum over the weekend. She praised Western governments, including Canada, France, Germany and Australia, for helping but noted that Iraq has not done enough to recognize the genocide of Yazidis.
Murad has compared the suffering of Yazidis to the Holocaust. In July, she met a Holocaust survivor and said it reminder her of the horrific scenes she saw in Washington’s US Holocaust Museum. It “looked similar to what Yazidis witnessed in 2014,” she said. In August 2016, she implored the world to do more to help these modern genocide survivors. She also visited Yad Vashem in 2017. The US Congress has passed a resolution to help religious minorities in Iraq, signed by US President Donald Trump on December 14. However the lack of basic progress in supporting Yazidis is clear in Sinjar.
Many Yazidis are still living in tents, either in IDP camps or on Mount Sinjar. Visitors say that there are more than two dozen checkpoints just to get to the area of Yazidi villages, and many areas lie in ruins. The Norwegian Refugee Council released footage of Sinjar in late November showing the city remains a ruined ghost town.
I visited Sinjar in December 2015, and saw the mass graves of Yazidis. Comparing photos from December 2015 to December 2018 shows that much of the city and neighboring areas haven’t changed. In December 2015 there was a small clinic on the mountain with one woman who was helping Yazidis with basic medical needs. Yazidis tell humanitarian workers who have visited that they have been abandoned for years. That Murad has to spend her own Nobel Prize money, when more than 70 countries have joined the international Coalition against ISIS, only reinforces this perception.