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Pope Francis Meets Nobel Peace Prize Winner Championing Women Rights in Iraq, Afghanistan

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Dec. 20, 2018. Vatican Media.

Pope Francis on Thursday met with Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, a human rights advocate who has been speaking out on behalf of women and girls in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Murad’s meeting with the pope on Aug. 26 comes as the survivor of ISIS enslavement has expressed concern for the future of Afghan women under Taliban rule.

“I know what happens when the world loses sight of women & girls in crises. When it looks away, war is waged on women’s bodies. This must not happen in Afghanistan. The international community must act so that the Taliban doesn’t continue to rob women of their rights & freedoms,” Murad wrote on Twitter on Aug. 16, the day after the Taliban took control of Kabul.

The private papal audience at the Vatican was Murad’s third meeting with the pope. She also met with Pope Francis in Dec. 2018 shortly after receiving the Nobel Prize for her “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”

Murad said that she had an “in-depth discussion about the Yazidi community’s experience of genocide” during their last meeting.

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Pope Francis told journalists in March that he was inspired to travel to Iraq partly by Murad’s memoir, “The Last Girl.”

“Nadia Murad tells terrifying things. I recommend you read it. In some places, it may seem heavy, but for me, this is the underlying reason for my decision,” the pope said on his return flight from Baghdad on March 8.

Islamic State militants captured Murad six years ago after killing six of her brothers, her mother, and more than 600 Yazidis in her Iraqi village. She was enslaved, along with most of the young women in her community, and repeatedly raped by the ISIS fighters.

After being sold as a slave multiple times and suffering both sexual and physical abuse, Murad escaped ISIS at the age of 23 after three months of captivity. After relocating to Germany, she used her freedom to become an advocate for Yazidi women who remained in ISIS captivity.

She is serving as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking and founded Nadia’s Initiative, an organization to help female victims of violence.

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Murad was the first Iraqi to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She was finally able to bury the remains of two of her brothers in her hometown in Kocho in February 2021.

The U.S. State Department declared in 2016 that Yazidis, along with the Christian and Shia Muslim religious minorities, were victims of a genocide perpetrated by the Islamic State.

Murad has said that Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq last March was “a sign of hope for all minorities.”

“Not only is Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq historic in itself, but it also comes at a historic time for the Iraqi people, as they rebuild from genocide, religious persecution, and decades of conflict,” Murad told Vatican News in March.

“The pope’s visit shone a light on the potential for peace and religious freedom. It symbolized that all Iraqis -- no matter their faith -- are equally deserving of dignity and human rights.”

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