add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );Human Rights Activist Nadia Murad Shares Her Story with BC Community - BANG.
Ana Maria Cornea / Gavel Media

Human Rights Activist Nadia Murad Shares Her Story with BC Community

Biannually, the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics brings in an influential leader to speak at the Clough Colloquium. This speaker series facilitates spaces for prominent individuals to give speeches and answer questions about issues of ethics and leadership on a national and global level. From former presidents to Pulitzer prize winners, these figures never fail to leave audiences feeling moved and inspired. On the afternoon of February 22nd, the renowned activist and Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad shared her story with the Boston College community. 


Murad began the event with a powerful introduction to the impactful human rights and justice work that she does and what drives her to advocate for those who would not otherwise have a voice. In 2018, she founded Nadia’s Initiative, an organization focused on supporting survivors of sexual violence all over the world. Its programming concentrates on Murad’s hometown in Sinjar, Iraq, after the devastation left in the wake of the terror of ISIS. She shared her hopes that speaking to students, other activists, and politicians will give a voice to those who have experienced and currently experience injustice. 


As a member of the Yazidi community, an ethnoreligious minority in Iraq, she experienced firsthand the violence and horror of the Yazidi genocide. In August 2014, ISIS invaded Sinjar and wreaked havoc on the lives of the Yazidi, forcing them into physical and sexual slavery, destroying their homes and livelihoods, and killing thousands. Almost 500,000 men, women, and children were displaced, and so many are still reeling from the ethnic cleansing. 


Murad was one of the women and girls who were captured by ISIS. Her voice remained unwavering as she recounted the cruelty she saw and felt as a captive. In her memoir, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State, Murad details her experiences as a captive and a slave at the hands of ISIS. Since her escape, she has committed herself to making the ongoing Yazidi struggle known globally and improving the lives of those who have suffered from the struggle.


As her story unfolded, it became clear that Murad still thinks fondly of her home and childhood. When asked to describe her family and youth, a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth and she spoke of the deep gratitude and admiration she has for her mother. Her mother, as a single mom, raised Murad and her siblings without a job or steady income in a society that shunned her. Murad has not been able to get in contact with much of her family after the invasion by ISIS but stays hopeful that she might see them again.


Murad’s fierce activism does not come without its fair share of difficulties. As a Yazidi woman and a survivor of sexual violence, she has faced pushback from international figures and organizations. Murad shared her disappointment in the lack of support she received after going public about her time as a captive of ISIS. She admitted that many other women were wary of sharing their experiences with sexual violence as well. For these reasons, she aims to battle the stigma against speaking up about sexual violence through the work that she does. 


For the Boston College audience and the larger international community, Murad vocalized her call to action: a desire for more discussion about the ever-present Yazidi humanitarian crisis and compassion for those harmed by ISIS. She hopes for active and effective efforts to find the women who are still missing or in captivity, as well as legal action against the perpetrators of war crimes in Sinjar. There is no denying the events of 2014 and their lasting impacts, yet international courts and governments have not done enough to provide aid or support. 


At the end of her talk, it was announced that she had been named one of TIME’s 2024 Women of the Year. This was followed by a standing ovation from the audience crowded into the Heights Room, a symbol of gratitude for her strength in telling her story. Without a doubt, Murad’s inspiring and passionate message permeated the hearts and minds of every person in attendance.

Sophia Shaheen
+ posts