UNITED NATIONS — She was shared like a household good among Islamic State warriors who raped and brutalized her during the militant group’s occupation of Iraq in 2014. But Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who survived the ordeal, said Friday that she hoped to be the last woman to undergo the terrorist group’s sexual torture.
Murad, 24, who was recently named the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, took part in a panel discussion with renowned activist Gloria Steinem on Friday as she released a harrowing memoir of her life as a sex slave for ISIS fighters.
She is one of thousands of Yazidi women who were captured and enslaved as Islamic State took over Sinjar, the Yazidis ancestral home between Mosul and the Syrian border, in 2014. Islamic State established its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, but spread eastward across the Iraq border, claiming ever more territory and victims during the nearly seven-year civil war in Syria.
Now, as the group is on the run from Iraqi and Syrian cities, driven out by both U.S.-backed rebel forces as well as Russia-backed fighters loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, stories like Murad’s are emerging to detail the killings, torture and sexual human trafficking that took place on a wide scale.
“Many Yazidi victims have testified and are ready to testify against ISIS to be brought to justice,” she said through an interpreter before a book signing in the UN Bookshop. “Taking them to a courtroom and to justice will give those victims who went through rape and abuse and torture . . . hope and a new life if they see justice being done for them.”
Murad became an international phenomenon after her three months at the hands of ISIS fighters ended. The foreword to her book, “The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State,” is written by Amal Clooney, the international law attorney and wife of Oscar-winning actor George Clooney.
Amal Clooney also is representing Murad and other Yazidi women in cases they would like to bring before the International Criminal Court, which tries cases involving war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, or some other court to be established by the UN Security Council.
“The United Nations Security Council has created an investigative team that will collect evidence of the crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq,” Clooney wrote. “It means that evidence will be preserved and individual ISIS members can be put on trial. Those who thought that by their cruelty they could silence Nadia were wrong. Nadia’s spirit is not broken and her voice will not be muted. Instead, through this book, her voice is louder than ever.”
Steinem said Murad’s case is horrifying but that, near the UN’s East River campus and across the country, sex trafficking goes on in hotels and motels all but undetected and unabated.
“Within a few miles of where we are there are motels and other buildings in which sex-trafficked individuals are,” she said. “Without saying that this is the same in degree, it is the same in kind.”
Experts say Long Island is also not immune.
Last month, FBI agents rescued a 15-year-old Long Island girl who was trapped in a sex-trafficking ring. She was freed as part of a nationwide FBI program called Operation Cross Country XI — and was located in Central Islip.
In September, former NYPD Officer Eduardo Cornejo was sentenced to 66 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a 16-year-old girl, officials said. They added that he also was trafficking older females, around Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Last year, the Nassau County Bar Association hosted a discussion titled Modern Slavery: Human Trafficking on Long Island. The event featured assistant district attorneys and judges from Nassau and Suffolk as well as advocates for victims.
The event was held just before the release in December 2016 of the UN Office for Drugs and Crime’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, which chronicles Murad’s plight while reporting that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimated that Islamic State was holding about 3,500 civilians, mostly Yazidi women and children.
Murad called the writing of the book “the hardest part of my journey” because she knows others still suffer in situations like the one she escaped.
“I am not the only girl that went through this,” she said. “As we speak there are others still in captivity facing the same crimes, the same torture that I faced . . . It’s true that this is a book about me. It has my picture on it, but it is not only about me. It is about a cause, about a community that suffered, about all the women around the world that go through this.”