May 13, 2021 - Nadia Murad, a human rights activist and recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, said justice for survivors of genocide and sexual violence goes hand-in-hand with rebuilding war-torn communities. Murad was the keynote speaker in a virtual lecture hosted by the University of Houston Office of the Provost in April. The Law Center and the Graduate College of Social Work served as co-presenters. Dean Leonard M. Baynes moderated the question-and-answer session following Murad's presentation.
Murad is a leading voice for survivors of genocide and sexual violence. Her New York Times best-selling memoir, "The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State," is a harrowing account of the genocide of her people, the Yazidi, and her kidnapping and imprisonment by the Islamic State in Iraq. As a co-recipient of the Nobel, Murad and Denis Mukwege were honored for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
"Many systems around the world only punish perpetrators, and they do not address survivors," Murad said. "A holistic approach to justice requires tangible support for survivor's recovery. It is crucial to consider the socioeconomic factors that compound trauma, especially for marginalized communities. Survivors need resources to lead a life with basic dignity before they can begin to truly heal.
"As we pursue justice, we can only hope to make lasting progress on human rights if we make equity the means as well as the ends."
When asked by Baynes how law can make an impact, Murad emphasized that victims of traumatic events are marginalized further when violent acts are not held accountable.
"The rule of law is very important in cases like this," Murad said. "Without justice, survivors are not able to feel safe again. Without justice, a community is not able to heal again. Without justice, ISIS can return under a different name and attack the same community or other vulnerable communities. If there is no justice after a genocide takes place, it's not possible for these communities to survive in that environment."