Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nadia Murad's Family Was Killed By ISIS — What Happened When She Met Donald Trump

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Who Is Nadia Murad? New Details On The Woman Who's Family Killed By ISIS And Her Meeting With Donald Trump
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It is not unusual for U.S. Presidents to meet with human rights activists and Nobel laureates. Conferring with people doing humanitarian work is one of the basic duties of the office. That’s why Donald Trump’s meeting with the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad and other victims of religious discrimination in their homelands should have been fairly uncontroversial. However, Trump managed to draw attention to the meeting after he responded to Murad’s story of her family being killed by ISIS in Iraq by replying: “Where are they now,” before questioning the world-renowned human rights activist on what she did to earn a Nobel Prize.

Murad, for her part, handled the meeting with the kind of grace and dignity that she brings to all of her work advocating for oppressed people.

Who is Nadia Murad? We have all the details here. 

1. Yazidi slaughter

Murad and her family lived in a farming community in Kocho, Iraq. They were members of the Yazidi ethnic and religious minority group native to the region. The Yazidi community there faced persecution and, later, slaughter by the ISIS terrorist group. According to the Nobel Prize biography of Murad, “Nadia Murad is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, where she lived with her family in the remote village of Kocho. In August 2014 the Islamic State (IS) launched a brutal, systematic attack on the villages of the Sinjar district, aimed at exterminating the Yazidi population. In Nadia Murad’s village, several hundred people were massacred. The younger women, including underage children, were abducted and held as sex slaves. While a captive of the IS, Nadia Murad was repeatedly subjected to rape and other abuses. Her assaulters threatened to execute her if she did not convert to their hateful, inhuman version of Islam.”

Murad managed to escape from ISIS and made her way to a refugee camp. She was 19-years-old when this happened to her.

Murad was a teenager when she was captured by ISIS.

2. Activism

After the refugee camp, she was offered an opportunity to resettle in Germany, where she continues to reside. In the years following the murder of her family by ISIS and the brutalization and suffering she endured as their captive, Murad has become a voice for victims of sexual violence and human trafficking. Her organization Nadia’s Initiative "is dedicated to rebuilding communities in crisis, advocating for victims of sexual violence, working for a world free from genocide and sexual violence. Nadia’s Initiative challenges world leaders to act — to make “never again” a reality, not an empty promise. Words without action inflict the same harm and suffering as the perpetrators of mass atrocities and sexual violence.”

Murad now lives in Germany.

3. Nobel Prize

In 2018, Murad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In the announcement, the Nobel Committee said: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes.”

The announcement went on to say “Nadia Murad is herself a victim of war crimes. She refused to accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected. She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims.”

The Nobel Committee concluded by saying “Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have both put their personal security at risk by courageously combating war crimes and seeking justice for the victims. They have thereby promoted the fraternity of nations through the application of principles of international law.”

Murad is a human rights advocate. 

4. Trump meeting

On July 18, Trump sat for a meeting with Murad and several dozen others who faced religious persecution in their home countries. According to the Washington Post, the attendees included a Jewish Holocaust survivor, a Tibetan from China and a Rohingya Muslim from Myanmar. Murad made the case for making her homeland safe for her to return to, imploring Trump to look beyond the defeat of ISIS in the region to other pressures faced by refugees, saying: “If I cannot go to my home and live in a safe place and get my dignity back, this is not about ISIS. It’s about I’m in danger. My people cannot go back.”

Murad in the Oval Office. 

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5. Strange response

After watching the video of the meeting, people noted that Trump seemed disconnected from Murad and the others. He remained seated while they stood in a semi-circle behind him and he didn’t turn his chair to listen to Murad, instead he looked over his shoulder toward her occasionally. He also seemed uninformed about her background. When she talked about her time as an ISIS captive and the sexual assault she experienced he said: “Oh, really, is that right? So you escaped.” Murad replied: “I escaped, but I don’t have my freedom yet.”

In another odd exchange, Murad told Trump about the death of her family, saying that ISIS killed her mother and six brothers. Trump then said to her: “Where are they now?” Murad replied: “They killed them. They are in the mass grave in Sinjar, and I’m still fighting just to live in safety,” explaining for the second time information that should have been part of any briefing an elected official would receive before this type of meeting.

Trump appeared not to be listening. 

6. Analysis

The awkward nature of the interaction between Trump and Murad drew a lot of attention. Scott Monty, an expert in human behavior wrote a commentary for the News and Guts website noting: “When Iraqi Yazidi refugee and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad spoke to the president, his body language said everything. He remained seated at his desk, surrounded by people (for the photo op, no doubt) as if he were seated on a throne…Trump didn’t even face Murad for the entirety of her statement and was unable to simply maintain eye contact with her.”

Monty went on to write: “His questions were about where her dead parents were, and how she possibly could have won the Nobel Prize (something his predecessor also did, which must burn him up with jealousy), and a self-aggrandizing statement about the region (“I know the area very well”). No expression of sympathy, solidarity, or compassion.”

Monty observed that Trump’s behavior was unlike that of the three most recent prior presidents, whom he speculated: “would have been on their feet…facing Murad, and offering some kind of reassuring condolences, perhaps even hugging her.”

Trump never got up from his seat.

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7. Nobel envy

After the usual questions about her past, Trump appeared to fixate on the idea of Murad’s Nobel Prize. During the meeting with Murad, he questioned why she got the Peace Prize, almost as if he were looking for advice on how to earn one. Murad replied: “For, after all this happened to me, I didn’t give up. I made it clear to everyone that ISIS raped thousands of Yazidi women.” 

The Washington Post reported that Trump said he deserves the prize for his work in Syria and North Korea. At this time, Trump’s diplomatic efforts in those countries have not resulted in any notable changes to the status quo. And while Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Prize twice, the New York Times reports that the committee found that his nomination had been forged both times, prompting a criminal investigation.

President Barack Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

Murad continues to work on human rights initiatives around the world.

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.