ROME – Pope Francis met Thursday with the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, a survivor of ISIS enslavement and an advocate for human rights and persecuted Iraqi minorities.
Murad, who first met the pontiff at a weekly general audience last year, returned to the Vatican for a private audience with the pope after receiving the Nobel prize in October for her “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
Militants of the Islamic State captured Murad four years ago after killing 6 of her brothers, her mother, and more than 600 Yazidis in her Iraqi village. She was enslaved, along with most of the young women in her community, and repeatedly raped by the ISIS fighters.
After being sold as a slave multiple times and suffering both sexual and physical abuse, Murad escaped ISIS at the age of 23 after 3 months of captivity. Now based in Germany, she has used her freedom to become an advocate for the thousands of Yazidi women who remain missing or in ISIS captivity.
The U.S. State Department declared in 2016 that Yazidis, along with the Christian and Shia Muslim religious minorities, were victims of a genocide perpetrated by the Islamic State.
During their meeting Dec. 20, Murad presented Francis with an Italian copy of her memoir, The Last Girl. Murad is the first Iraqi to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Last week, Murad stressed in her Nobel Peace Prize Lecture that religious minorities are still at risk in Northern Iraq.
“After the genocide, we received international and local sympathy, and many countries recognized this genocide, but the genocide did not stop. The threat of annihilation still exists,” she said Dec. 10.
“Despite our daily appeals since 2014, the fate of more than 3,000 children and women in the grip of ISIS is still unknown. Young girls at the prime of life are sold, bought, held captive and raped every day,” Murad said.
“It is inconceivable that the conscience of the leaders of 195 countries around the world is not mobilized to liberate these girls,” she added.
Francis has been outspoken in his sympathy and support for the Yazidi population after their genocide.
The pope told a delegation of Yazidi refugees earlier this year that the “international community cannot remain a silent and inert spectator in the face of your drama.”
“I raise my voice in favor of Yazidi rights, above all the right to exist as a religious community,” Pope Francis said in January 2018.
“It is unacceptable that human beings be persecuted and killed because of their religious affiliation! Every person has the right to freely profess his religious beliefs without constraints,” he said.