Of all the Nobel Prizes, the one that gives rise to the most doubts is the Peace Prize. Nobels in the sciences and in economics are for achievements recognized by others in the field. The Peace Prize is political and wildly subjective, sometimes given for work that has nothing to do with “peace,” or used to promote the political side that the Norwegian judges favor. Yassir Arafat, before bin Laden the world’s foremost terrorist, shared a prize (with Rabin and Peres) for promoting peace by signing the Oslo Accords, which accords represented a stunning diplomatic victory for the “Palestinians.” The left-wing Norwegians were eager to forget all the terrorist attacks by Arafat’s men and to honor him in order that he might continue “on the path of peace.” Barack Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” although his main diplomatic effort, that led to the Iran Nuclear Deal, also included, as is now known, all sorts of side deals favorable to Iran, that he made while keeping Congress largely in the dark.
There was Anwar Sadat, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for graciously agreeing to receive back the entire Sinai from Israel as part of a peace settlement. Sadat was later murdered by a Muslim fanatic who failed to realize what a diplomatic coup Sadat had pulled off as a veritable Prince of Peace. There was Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian female activist, who has worked for women’s rights in Iran, where Islamic misogyny is in full flower. Her Nobel hasn’t protected her; she now lives in London where, she now insists, she was wrong: she used to push for reform from within Iran, but has concluded that no reform is possible with the current regime, and women will continue to suffer in Iran until the regime is overthrown.
There was Malala Yousefzai, who worked for the right of girls in Pakistan to get an education, not something many Muslim males in that country favor, including the one who shot her through the head (she survived). There was a Nobel Peace Prize shared by Mohammed Yunus for his attempts to spread microloans, in order to help the poor start businesses. Mohammed el Baradei won for his efforts, as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which shared the prize with him, “to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that the Agency’s monitoring of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in order to make sure it is used in the safest possible way.” Some American officials believed he was engaged in communications with the Iranians who were suspect. Of course, although he was dealing mostly with weapons programs in Iran and Iraq, two very aggressive states, El Baradei has accused Israel of being the biggest threat to the Middle East because of its nuclear weapons. Israel has repeatedly said it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to any conflict, but that’s not good enough for El Baradei. He would like to force Israel to rid itself of nuclear weapons, but Israel, unsurprisingly, is not impressed with his suggestion and is not about to commit suicide to please the likes of Mohamed el Baradei.
The United States finally dropped its objections to a third term at the IAEA for El Baradei, not because it had full faith in him, but to avoid a diplomatic debacle, and the vote in his favor was unanimous. Awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the atomic energy agency he headed (instead of simply awarding the prize only to the Agency) allowed the Norwegians to provide one more feel-good moment — a Nobel winner! — to the Third World, and to give Muslims a boost to their self-esteem with this additional Nobel.
This year the Norwegians have finally done themselves proud. One of the two Nobel Peace Prize winners is Nadia Murad, a Yazidi girl who was captured by fanatical Muslims belonging to the Islamic State in northern Iraq. These Muslims in ISIS have killed thousands of defenseless Yazidis, whose only crime was that they were not Muslims. Murad was beaten and repeatedly raped. Six of her nine brothers were killed. Yet she escaped, and now perseveres, having been named by the United Nations as a “Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking of the United Nations,” in spreading her own tale and that of her people, a task which takes her around the world, telling the Yazidi story and listening to others tell of similar atrocities, about the trafficking of women prisoners who are war booty for the jihadis.
Listening to the radio, I heard with alarm several people on a talk show describe Nadia Murad as a “Yazidi Muslim.” She is not a Muslim. She must never be thought of as a Muslim. She is a Yazidi, a small religious sect with roots in Kurdistan and Armenia, that has always been the object of Muslim hatred. The killings of Yazidis by the Muslims, Arab and non-Arab, of the Islamic State have, during the last few years, been conducted “on an industrial scale,” as Amal Clooney, Murad’s lawyer, told the U.N.
Nadia Murad stands up not just for the Yazidis, but for all the other non-Muslim or non-Arab minorities who have been oppressed — harassed, persecuted, and often murdered — by their Muslim captors, and not just in Iraq. Over the centuries the Armenians, Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Jews, Samaritans, Zoroastrians, Alawites, and orthodox Shia, have all suffered from Sunni Muslims. Nadia Murad now has her bully pulpit, for her own mistreated people, and she obviously intends to use it.
This is first time that a victim of Jihad and Islamic terrorism has been recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize. If it leads to greater attention to what has happened to the Yazidis, and to other groups of non-Muslims similarly situated, and to a greater focus on the Muslims who are responsible for the attempted genocide of the Yazidis, that would be a salutary development. Meanwhile, be on the alert when the subject of Nadia Murad comes up on any show to which listeners can call in. Make sure that she is properly identified as a Yazidi, a non-Muslim victim of Muslim mass rapes, just as her six dead brothers were victims of Muslim mass murder. Call in, especially, to correct anyone identifying her as belonging, as I have heard someone say, to “a small Muslim sect.” You could, while correcting that error, also add that Yazidis in Iraq have made contact with Israelis, and Nadia Murad herself has visited Israel, and expressed great admiration and sympathy for the country and its people, seeing an obvious parallel:
In 2017, she traveled to Israel to speak about her ordeal, where she addressed Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People.
Addressing a packed lecture hall at the Museum of the Jewish People at Tel Aviv University on her last day in Israel, i24 News reported that Nadia drew strong parallels between the suffering of the Yazidi people and that of the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
“[The Jewish people’s story] is a unique story, and yet so much of it echoes my own community’s experiences. Like the Jews, the Yazidis have an ancient history thousands of years old. Despite recurring persecution, both our people have survived,” Nadia said, in remarks delivered through a translator.
“For three years, ISIS has stolen the authorship of the Yazidi story. But we will not let them write our future. My time in Israel has shown me that in the wake of oppression and genocide, a community can emerge stronger,” she said.
“About Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial museum to the Holocaust, she said,
the message is that there are many ways to be a hero. Like Jews, the Yazidi people are showing resistance by holding onto our identity and practising our traditions, and we need the Jewish people’s mentorship to rebuild our community. Thank you for giving us hope.
In a speech in the Knesset, she asked Israel to formally recognize the genocide of the Yazidis:
“My visit here today is to ask you to recognize the genocide being committed against my people, in light of our peoples’ common history of genocide,” The Times of Israel quoted Nadia Murad as saying on Tuesday, urging the Knesset to recognize the atrocities committed against the Yezidis of the Kurdistan Region at the hands of ISIS extremists.
The Jews and the Yazidis share a common history of genocide that has shaped the identity of our peoples, but we must transform our pain into action. I respect how you rebuilt a global Jewish community in the wake of genocide. This is a journey that lies ahead of my community.
Some Yazidis have requested that they be taken in by Israel. There are even reports that some Yazidis have asked if they might be allowed to train and fight with the IDF against their common enemy, fanatical Muslims.
If Nadia Murad keeps telling her own tale, what she endured in all its ghastliness, and does not leave anything out, if she describes how the members of the Islamic State would recite verses from the Qur’an both before and after raping Yazidi girls, if she goes still further and dares to discuss the Qur’anic passages and hadith stories on which the Islamic State bases its behavior, she will have performed a great service, as the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to tell unpleasant truths about Islam. Think of her Prize as a way of cancelling the embarrassment of Arafat’s award. And Muslim states would have a hard time explaining any attempts to criticize or silence such a formidable person.
So far, Nadia Murad appears not to be pulling her punches when it comes to Islam. In 2016, she addressed the UN Security Council, describing how she had been gang raped for a failed escape attempt. All of this, she said, was considered legal under ISIS rule — which dictates that Yazidis, because they do not practice Islam, can be taken as slaves on religious grounds. “They sold girls, girls that were underage, because ISIS considered that permissible under Islamic law,” she said. “They came not just to attack certain people, but they came for all Yazidis.”
Nadia Murad has so far in her travels addressed audiences in Ireland, in France, in the U.K., in Canada, in Germany, and in the United States, telling her tale, and the tale of her people:
Four years ago I was one of thousands of Yazidi women kidnapped by Islamic State and sold into slavery. I endured rape, torture and humiliation at the hands of these militants before I escaped.
I was relatively lucky. Many Yazidi girls and women went through worse and for much longer.
Over 2,000 are still missing. Many have been killed.
In early August 2014 Islamic State invaded the Sinjar region in northern Iraq with the mission of exterminating the Yazidis. They called us a ‘pagan minority’, and because we don’t have a holy book we have been described as ‘devil worshippers.’”
In Kocho, my village of 1,800 people, over 300 men were shot and their bodies buried in irrigation ditches. Six of them were my own brothers.
Since then the Yazidis have received sympathy and solidarity all over the world. Rightly, many countries and the United Nations have recognised the genocide committed against us by Islamic State. But we now need concrete action to get justice and allow us to rebuild our community and homes. We have been displaced and dispersed around the world. Many countries, including Germany, Canada, and the United States have given us refuge.
Now she has the Nobel Prize, which she can permanently use as a mighty megaphone to spread her story, and the stories of other Yazidis, across the globe. She is being helped by the world’s most mediagenic and celebrated lawyer, Amal Clooney, who has become the legal advocate for Yazidi victims of atrocities.
It will be fascinating to see how the Arab and Muslim media report on this prize to Nadia Murad, and on her campaign to describe the fate of Yazidis at Muslim hands. So far — it’s early yet — they are mostly observing radio silence, trying to figure out how to cover the story. Al Jazeera did report, in passing, that the Islamic State had tried to make her convert to Islam, without recognizing that all Muslims are supposed to try to convert Infidels.
Will the Arab media focus on the one Muslim family that helped her escape from ISIS, as if that family should make us overlook all the Muslims who were not willing to help? Furthermore, should that one decent family make us overlook all the Muslims who engaged in the mass rape of Yazidi girls, and mass killings of Yazidi men? Will Muslim reporters insist, implausibly, that just as the Arabs and Jews used to have such good relations (“we got along with them just fine until the Zionists arrived”), so too “for centuries we Muslims got along perfectly well with the Yazidis — it’s only these Islamic State extremists who have been attacking them”? In fact, for centuries, under Ottoman rule, and until today, Yazidis have been persecuted as “devil worshippers” by Muslims, both Arabs and Turks. Constant attempts have been made to force them to convert to Islam, though in the past nothing quite as bad as the atrocities they have recently endured apparently occurred.
There are now 400,000 Yazidis still living in northern Iraq. They deserve to survive. Will they be given protection, so that they can remain in their ancestral homeland? Can the Iraqi government be trusted to provide it, or will it require Western forces, having armed the Yazidis so that they can participate in their own defense, to ensure the safety of the remaining Yazidis, with some kind of cordon sanitaire? Let’s find out what Nadia Murad thinks would make the most sense. She’s not just earned her Nobel as few others have, but even more important, she’s earned the right to be listened to on the fate, both tragic and hopeful, of her tiny people.