Pope Francis meets with genocide survivor and Nobel laureate who inspired his Iraq trip

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis held a private audience with Nadia Murad, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and survivor of the Islamic State-led genocide in Iraq, Aug. 26 at the Vatican.

The pope met her previously at the Vatican at the end of a general audience in St. Peter’s Square in May 2017 and privately in December 2018, after she and Denis Mukwege were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”

She is the first Iraqi and Yazidi to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

Pope Francis held a private audience with Nadia Murad, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and survivor of the Islamic State-led genocide in Iraq, Aug. 26 at the Vatican.

She survived a genocidal campaign against the Yazidis by Islamic State militants in Iraq in 2014. The militants kidnapped her, and she escaped captivity after three months.

In an Aug. 16 tweet commenting on recent events in Afghanistan, she wrote: “My heart breaks for the next generation of girls & women whose nation has been overtaken by the Taliban. Kabul fell on the same day my village fell to ISIS 7 years ago. The international community must address the repercussions before tragedy is repeated.”

“My heart breaks for the next generation of girls & women whose nation has been overtaken by the Taliban. Kabul fell on the same day my village fell to ISIS 7 years ago. The international community must address the repercussions before tragedy is repeated.”

Murad has been leading efforts to raise awareness about the plight of the Yazidi people, the need to hold ISIS accountable and to advocate for women in areas of conflict and survivors of sexual violence. She is the U.N. goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking.

She founded Nadia’s Initiative and seeks to meet with world leaders to convince “governments and international organizations to support sustainable redevelopment of the Yazidi homeland,” according to the initiative’s website.

Pope Francis told reporters flying back to Rome from Iraq March 8, 2021, that one of the reasons he became convinced he had to visit the nation was after reading Murad’s memoir, “Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State.”

Murad has been leading efforts to raise awareness about the plight of the Yazidi people, the need to hold ISIS accountable and to advocate for women in areas of conflict and survivors of sexual violence.

A reporter had given him a copy of the book, he said, and “that book affected me.”

He said when he met Murad, she told him “terrible” things and “then, with the book, all these things together, led to the decision, thinking about all of them, all those problems.”

“At certain points, since it is biographical, it might seem rather depressing, but for me this was the real reason behind my decision,” he said.