Yezidi Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad speaks to Rudaw at the National Press Club, Washington DC, October 8, 2018. Photo: Rudaw video
Nadia Murad, a Yezidi survivor of the 2014 ISIS genocide, was last week awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”.
After delivering a speech at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Monday, Murad told Rudaw’s Namo Abdulla that Yezidi refugees want to return to their ancestral home in Shingal, but not enough is currently being done to make the area safe.
The Nobel winner told Rudaw she will meet with US Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday to discuss how the security situation for Iraq’s religious minorities can be addressed.
The situation in Shingal has not reached the point to make people return. People will not return. Three-hundred-and-fifty-thousand Yezidis are in camps. This does not mean they are happy with their lives in camps. On the contrary, they’ve spent four years of hardship in the camps, but as you know more than 65,000 Yezidis have returned to Shingal [but] they are in a very dire condition – without medicine, aid, and security. Nothing considerable has been done for Shingal. Why are our people not returning? [Because] as you know there are 45 mass graves but they have not been excavated yet. ISIS has contaminated the area, especially the south of Shingal. There is no security for people. The Yezidis have lost all they had in Shingal. We worked for years to build a house and a future for our children. All these disappeared in one day. How can people return if there is no security, freedom, and property?
Rudaw: Why do the international community and the UN not spend money on Shingal? [US Vice President] Mike Pence said he has a special budget for religious minorities like Christians and Yezidis in Iraq. Why have they not done anything for Yezidis?
The international community and organizations spent more there [in Iraq] but did not go to Shingal because it was not a secure place and it became a conflict area between political parties. Even a UN delegation has been to Baghdad and Erbil twice but said that they cannot go to there [Shingal]. Many people do not go to Shingal because it is not secure. When it’s insecure, no one can go to work there. Tomorrow we will meet with the vice president. We will talk about the situation there and the future of the people.
When do you think people will be able to return to Shingal? After a year or two?
We do not know when because we do not know for how many years they will stay in camps. If you ask any person [about this] he/she will say ‘I want to get out. I do not want to stay here because I have lost my property’. It is very hard. Many people do not want to stay and they want to find a way out. When I came to Germany and thought that I have the right to live and practice my freedom. I wanted to be there [Shingal]. When the people in Shingal feel they have a place and are respected, believe me people will return. They do not want to abandon the place of their ancestors but if nothing serious is done you cannot make people return forcibly.
The last question is about the prosecution of ISIS members in the International Criminal Court. You worked with Amal Clooney on this case. Where has the case reached? When will they be prosecuted? Can you talk about the process?
We continue [working] on this thing. Clooney and her team are working on the cases. One work in Germany and another in Holland against those ISIS members who have returned and those on whom there is information. But it has not reached the point to be addressed in court.
What are the obstacles?
It takes time. Things had happened to people before. If you want to say it was a genocide, it take time [to prove it]. The court cannot work on it for one day or one year. It takes time. It requires proof, real things and testimonies. We are working on these. A documentation team has been formed. Karim Khan is the head of this team. We have often met with him but we are waiting for financial support for the team to begin working on the mass graves in Shingal and Iraq. We keep working on it but as you know when you talk about genocide and such a big terror, it is not easy to convince all countries.
How many Yezidis are captive now and do you what is new about them?
No one knows the actual number because we do not know how many of them are dead and how many are alive. But they are about 3,000. As you know Iraq has been liberated from ISIS, so the remaining [Yezidi captives] are in Syria but we do not know how many of them have been killed. We have not heard anything about my brother’s wife for about three years. No Yezidi knows about the condition and whereabouts of them.