Yazidi Activist and ISIS Sex Slave Survivor Returns to Her Home Village for the First Time

Sofia Lotto Persio

Yazidi activist Nadia Murad made an emotional visit to her native village of Kojo, near Mosul in Iraq, for the first time since the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) besieged and captured the village three years ago.

Murad returned to what remained of her family home and the school where ISIS massacred thousands of her neighbors and fellow Yazidis. “Nearly 1,700 children and men were piled up in the school,” she recalled in tears, Kurdish news channel Rudaw reported.

"What remains of the village is the bones of our brothers, our fathers and mothers. Even in our house there is nothing left from my mother that I can take with me,” she said.

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Nadia Murad reunited with her brother.

Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor and now a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, hugs her brother Saeed as she visits her village for the first time after being captured and sold as a slave by ISIS three years ago, in Kojo, Iraq, on June 1. Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

During the visit on June 1, the campaigner was reunited with one of her surviving brothers, Saeed, who is also a soldier.

When ISIS attacked Iraq’s Sinjar region in 2014, it particularly targeted the Yazidi people, a religious minority the militants consider to be infidels. Thousands of people, like Murad’s mother and six of her nine brothers, were massacred. Among those who were spared were some young men who were brainwashed to join the militants as they advanced to Mosul, while Yazidi women suffered abuse as sex slaves.

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During her visit to Kojo, Murad said some of the militants were her neighbors, and she could identify them even though they wore masks. “We recognized them from their voices because they used to sit here thousands of times,” she said.

Nadia Murad returns to home village

Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor and a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, greets Kurdish Peshmerga fighters at a defensive point near Sinjar, Iraq, on June 1. Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Murad, who was 21 years old at the time, was held in captivity by ISIS for three months before she managed to escape. After reaching safety in Germany, she found the strength to share her story to the world and became the voice of the Yadizi community, addressing the United Nations and meeting world leaders.

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Joining forces with renowned human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, Murad is fighting for justice for the Yazidi, aiming to investigate ISIS’s crimes against humanity and the Yazidi people, thousands of whom remain in the militants’ hands.

Murad was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and in September 2016 was appointed the first United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

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