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Former Islamic State Sex Slave Gets Major Human Rights Award

The European Council has bestowed the prestigious Vaclav Havel Human Rights Award on Nadia Murad, a survivor of Islamic State sex slavery and now a vocal activist for the rights of those oppressed by ISIS jihad.

During her three-month captivity by the Islamic State, the Yazidi woman was gang-raped, tortured and repeatedly sold as a sex slave in Iraq. After escaping in 2014, Murad has devoted herself to fighting for justice for the victims of the jihadist group, arguing that ISIS’ systematic attack on the Yazidis should be recognized as genocide.

The Council’s website noted that Murad had distinguished herself by “bringing the plight of the Yezidi community, in particular the forced sexual enslavement and human trafficking of women and children captured by ISIS, to the forefront of international attention.”

Last month, Murad was named UN goodwill ambassador, charged with the task of raising awareness of the plight of victims of trafficking, especially the sex trafficking of women and girls.

“Maybe I lived so that I would be able to use my heart and soul and my words to be their voice,” she said at a September ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York.

Speaking at the awards ceremony in Strasbourg on Monday, the 23-year-old Murad called for the establishment of a special court for the Yazidi genocide and denounced the fact that no one had been punished.

Relentless in her appeals for the release of the 3,200 Yazidi women and girls still being held by Islamic State fighters as sex slaves, Murad has also demanded that the ISIS captors face justice.

Her hope, she has said, is that one day Yazidi victims will be able to look “our abusers in the eye before a court in The Hague and tell the world what they have done to us, so that our community can heal.”

The international Vaclav Havel Human Rights Award was inaugurated in 2013 and is presented each year to honor noteworthy promotors of human rights in civil society. The award is endowed with 60,000 euros and commemorates Vaclav Havel, the playwright, Czech president, architect of the Velvet Revolution of 1989, and an “enduring symbol of opposition to despotism.”

At her appointment as UN goodwill ambassador last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held Murad up as a sign of hope.

“Nadia shows with her life how important it is to fight for trafficking victims,” he said. “They deserve justice. And when we empower them, they can help transform our world.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter  

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