As women all across this country are raging, crying and telling their stories of sexual assault, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege for their campaigns to end mass rape as a weapon of war. In her remarks announcing this decision, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said the following:
We want to send out a message of awareness that women, who constitute half of the population in most communities, actually are used as a weapon of war, and that they need protection and that the perpetrators have to be prosecuted and held responsible for their actions.
Nadia Murad’s story is difficult to read. But take a moment to think about the courage it took her to not only survive, but use her voice to speak out on behalf of other victims. The least we can do is feel a little discomfort as we hear her story.
Born and raised in the village of Kojo in northern Iraq, Ms. Murad, along with her family, was at the center of ISIS’ campaign of ethnic cleansing. Kojo, on the southern flank of Mount Sinjar, was one of the first Yazidi villages to be overrun by ISIS, which launched its attack from the south on Aug. 3, 2014.
Residents were herded into Kojo’s only school, where women and girls were separated from the men. The male captives, including six of Ms. Murad’s brothers, were loaded into trucks, driven to a field outside the town and executed.
The women and girls were forced into buses. Ms. Murad was taken to a slave market, where she was sold to an ISIS judge. He repeatedly raped her, beating her if she tried to close her eyes during the assault. When she tried to jump out a window, she recounted, he ordered her to undress and left her with his bodyguards, who raped her one by one. She eventually escaped.
She embarked on a worldwide campaign, speaking before the United Nations Security Council, the United States House, the House of Commons in Britain and other global bodies.
Ms. Murad has said that she was exhausted by having to repeatedly speak out, but she said she knew that other Yazidi women were being raped back home: “I will go back to my life when women in captivity go back to their lives, when my community has a place, when I see people accountable for their crimes.”…
A documentary to be released this month, “On Her Shoulders,” follows Ms. Murad as she travels the world to enlist global leaders in her fight.
She also recounted her life story in a recently published autobiography, “The Last Girl,” where Ms. Murad writes: “I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.”
In watching the trailer for “On Her Shoulders,” I was struck by how young Ms. Murad is, and also by the exhausted determination you see in her face.
Whether it is the one in three women in this country who are sexually assaulted or the use of rape as a weapon of war, we are reminded of the fact that, as Hillary Clinton so famously said, “Women’s rights are human rights,” and we still have a lot of work to do both here at home and around the globe on that front.
Jenny Nordberg wrote something a few years ago that should be a clarion call.
In the 2012 book “Sex and World Peace” a team of four researchers (Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett) present data indicating that the more violent a state and its citizens are toward women, the more violent that state is likely to be over all, both internally and in its dealings with outside world. “In fact, the very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated,” Hudson wrote in a piece for Foreign Policy…
The authors of “Sex and World Peace” go so far as to suggest that, in the future, “the clash of civilizations” will be based not on ethnic and political differences, but rather on beliefs about gender.
Right now we are experiencing that clash of civilizations here in this country when it comes to our beliefs about gender and violence against women. Rather than being a global leader on women’s rights who joins with heroes like Nadia Murad, we have a president that bragged about sexual assaulting women and then dismissed it as simply locker-room talk.
My one hope is that the blatant misogyny that is on display these days is the wake-up call we need to spark women all over this country (and the men who care about them) to rise up with the kind of determination Ms. Murad demonstrated when she wrote, “I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.” Right now she’s my inspiration because if she can keep going after everything she’s been through, surely we can too.